Karnataka hijab row: Section 144 near Udupi schools; joint legislature session from

With high schools set to reopen in Karnataka on Monday, following a four-day break to ease tensions over the hijab-saffron shawl row, the police have imposed prohibitory orders near the institutions in Udupi for six days till Saturday. Notably, the southern Karnataka district is at the centre of the ongoing controversy. The imposition of Section 144 under the CrPC comes at a time when the state is entering a crucial week in the ‘hijab faceoff’ with the Opposition gearing up to question the ruling BJP government on the issue in the Assembly session starting Monday and the Karnataka High Court set to resume hearings on the legal aspects of the dress code. On Friday, the High Court had issued interim orders directing all educational institutions to reopen and asking students to refrain from wearing any religious attire. The state’s junior colleges are scheduled to reopen from Tuesday. Ahead of the reopening of high schools, Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai on Sunday expressed confidence that peace and normalcy will prevail in the state. “The decision regarding the reopening of pre-university and degree colleges will be taken after assessing the situation. The troublemakers will face legal action as schools up to Class X are reopening from Monday. The students must focus on examinations scheduled in March. Other things would be taken care of by investigative agencies,” he said.

“I’ve instructed the district commissioners, superintendents of police and school administrations to conduct a peace committee meeting. I have asked the state education minister to submit a report after examining the situation regarding the reopening of pre-university and degree colleges, based on which a meeting will be held and a decision will be taken,” he added. Meanwhile, Leader of Opposition Siddaramaiah has convened a meeting of the Congress legislature party on Monday to discuss strategy for the session.

Speaking to indianexpress.com, sources in the Congress said that it will raise the ongoing hijab row in the legislature session. “Although the issue is in the Karnataka High Court, our party is planning to question the BJP-led state government’s failure in maintaining law and order during the hijab-saffron shawl row in the college campuses. We will demand an explanation from the government regarding the row and also declaration of holidays for colleges till February 16,” Congress sources said. The 10-day House session will start with Governor Thaawar Chand Gehlot addressing the joint sitting of members of the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council.

In Udupi, the police said that prohibitory orders under Section 144 will be in place within 200 metres of all high schools in the district from 6 am on February 14 (Monday) to 6 pm on February 19 (Friday).

“The prohibitory order has been issued based on the request of the three sub-divisional police officers of the Udupi district,” DC Kurma Rao said.

The police have provided an armed guard for Udupi BJP MLA K Raghupathi Bhat a day after he claimed that he had received threat calls from local and international numbers after the hijab ban snowballed into a controversy.

Bhat heads the college development committee of Government Girls Pre-University College of Udupi, where the hijab row first broke out when a group of eight Muslim girl students were kept out of classrooms for wearing the hijab.

  While junior colleges have remained shut in the state since February 9, the higher education department announced the closure of all first-grade and postgraduate colleges as well as universities and technical institutes till February 16.

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