A Mangalore college’s decision to ban its students from wearing burqas in classrooms and examination halls has become a point of debate with many who believe the educational institution may have overstepped its bounds on making rules for muslim students.
“Students must be neatly dressed in accordance with the rule of approved etiquette. Girls are not expected to wear burqa in the classrooms and in the examination halls. The decision of the principal in this regard is to be accepted,” the St Aloysius Pre-University college has said in its prospectus, according to the Times of India.
The college registrar, AM Narahari, was quoted as saying that the college’s professors had found it difficult to teach students in burqa and it was mandatory for students to show their faces during examinations.
This isn’t the first time the burqa has become a reason for conflict in an Indian college. A Mangalore college, Sri Venkataramana Swamy (SVS) College in Bantwal, had seen debates in 2009 over the burqa being allowed to be worn to class after one of their students refused to accept a rule asking them not to wear a burqa. There was also an incident in West Bengal in 2010 where students protested against a teacher’s refusal to wear the veil and did not let her teach.
Many universities and colleges in India have systems in place to allow their student to wear the burqa. Some ask students to use a photo of them without the face veil on their hall tickets and have female supervisors verify the identity of candidates while writing exams. Others give the students the freedom to choose and allow their students to wear the burqa to college.
However, some colleges try to avoid the controversy by insisting on their students sticking to a uniform thereby discouraging those who wear burqas from attending the college.
But in a secular country like India should educational institutions step into the realm of faith and make sweeping rules like banning the burqa? Some may argue that the wearing of burqa is a regressive step but isn’t it also wrong to prevent a person seeking education to have to choose between her faith and a college policy framed without keeping her in mind?