Indian Muslim students hold placards as they shout slogans during a protest against banning Muslim girls wearing hijab from attending classes at some schools in the southern Indian state of Karnataka, in New Delhi, India, Feb. 8. High school staff and authorities allege the girls are defying the uniform rules but students say they are being deprived of constitutionally guaranteed rights to practice their faith. Photo: AP Photo/Altaf Qadri

Authorities in India’s southern Karnataka State have ordered schools and colleges to shut down as protests intensified over a ban on Islamic headscarves that has outraged Muslim students.

The state’s chief minister Basavaraj Bommai announced on Feb. 8 that all high schools in the state would be closed for three days. He also appealed for calm.

“I appeal to all the students, teachers and management of schools and colleges … to maintain peace and harmony,” he said.

Protests erupted in response to some schools refusing entry to students wearing the hijab (Islamic veil). Fresh demonstrations on Feb. 8 saw officers fire tear gas to disperse a crowd at one government-run campus in the region.


Students at a government-run high school were told not to wear hijabs in January, an edict that soon spread to other educational institutions in the state. Campuses have seen escalating tensions and confrontations over the past few days.

Muslim female students say that wearing the hijab is a fundamental right to religion guaranteed by the constitution.

Karnataka’s top court began hearing a petition challenging the legality of the ban on Feb. 8. While no final order was passed, the judge appealed for peace and calm, and the court heard the petition on Feb. 9. 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) governs Karnataka State, where 12 percent of the population is Muslim. The ban has galvanized fears among the Muslim community about what they say is increasing persecution under the Hindu nationalist government.

Opposition parties accuse the BJP government at federal and state levels of discriminating against religious minorities.

Muslims across India complain of being victim to government-sanctioned harassment and hate crimes by extremist Hindu elements as well as discriminatory regulatory policies.

Critics say Mr.  Modi’s election in 2014 emboldened hardline extremist groups that view India as a “Hindu nation” and consider its 200-million-strong Muslim minority as a foreign threat. (