On ground, one verdict: Education key, classes, exams trump hijab ban

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In the split verdict on the hijab ban in Karnataka’s Pre-University Colleges (Class 11 and 12), Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia said that while deciding the case, the key issue for him centered around the fact that a girl faces “a lot of difficulties” in her education and by denying her that opportunity (via the hijab-ban order), “are we making her life any better”?

As the controversy played out in the courts, and on the campuses in Karnataka, the weight of Justice Dhulia’s remarks — and the premium that the community places on the education of its girls — are borne out by two key trends: the increasing presence of Muslim women in higher education and evidence that only a tiny segment decided to forgo education over the government order banning hijab in schools.

In Karnataka, the Gross Attendance Ratio (GAR) of Muslim women in higher education has seen a steady rise – from 1.1 per cent in 2007-08 to 15.8 per cent in 2017-18, according to unit-level data analysis of the National Sample Survey rounds 64 and 75 by Khalid Khan of the Indian Institute of Dalit Studies. Across India, the corresponding rise was from 6.7 per cent to 13.5 per cent.

Two, apart from the five petitioners against the state government order, no Muslim girl student in PUC classes has so far dropped out or applied for a transfer certificate in Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts, where the issue first flared up in February.

All of them, according to the deputy directors of the PU (Pre-University) Board of Dakshina Kannada and Udupi, appeared in the final exam held in April 2022.