Schools in southern India that were closed following protests over a ban on female students wearing the hijab or burqa reopened a week later.
The question was widely perceived by Indiaof the Muslim minority with the aim of marginalizing the community in the Hindu-dominated nation.
Police stood guard as female students in pink uniforms, a dozen of them wearing hijabs, entered the government school for girls in Udupi district, Karnataka state, where the the problem first arose.
Authorities have banned gatherings of more than five people within 200m (650ft) of educational facilities in the area.
Classes from primary to high school have restarted, but some upper grades and colleges remain closed.
Court order bans religious clothing
A state court, which scheduled a hearing in the case Monday, told students not to wear any religious attire — ranging from saffron shawls to sashes or hijabs — in class until further notice.
“The question of whether wearing the hijab in class is part of the essential religious practice of Islam in light of constitutional guarantees requires further consideration,” the court said in its interim order last week.
Protests erupted last week after some students were refused entry after violating a Feb. 5 order by Narendra Modi’s ruling party.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) draws its support from the majority Hindu community, which makes up around 80% of India’s approximately 1.4 billion people.
Meanwhile, Muslims make up around 13%.
Ayesha Imthiaz, a student at Udupi, said it was humiliating to be asked to remove the hijab before class.
She felt that her “religion had been questioned and insulted by a place that I had considered a temple of education”.
Support from Pakistan
Hindu students staged counter-protests, flocking to schools to support the ban.
In one incident in a video widely shared online, a Muslim student wearing a hijab was surrounded by teenagers shouting religious slogans as she attempted to enter her school in Karnataka.
The order also sparked outrage in the neighboring Muslim-majority country of Pakistanwhere women gathered to support the girls.
Last week, around 100 people took to the streets of the southern port city of Karachi, organized by Pakistan’s Islamist political party, the Jamaat-e-Islami.
In the eastern city of Lahore, dozens of women set fire to an effigy of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and demanded the ban be lifted.
“Depriving Muslim girls of an education is a grave violation of basic human rights,” Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi tweeted last week, calling the situation “absolutely oppressive.”
Malala Yousafzai speaks out for girls
Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai, who survived being shot in the head by the Taliban in 2012, expressed her support for the girls.
“The university forces us to choose between studies and the hijab”.
Refusing to let girls go to school in their hijab is horrible. The objectification of women persists – to wear less or more. Indian leaders must stop the marginalization of Muslim women. https://t.co/UGfuLWAR8I
— Malala (@malala) February 8, 2022
“Refusing to let girls go to school in their hijab is horrible,” she said.
“The objectification of women persists – to wear less or more. Indian leaders must stop the marginalization of Muslim women.”