Karnataka Education Minister Says Schools Can Celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi, Faces Backlash

Karnataka’s School Education minister B.C. Nagesh has said that schools and colleges are free to celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi on campuses. “The schools have complete freedom to celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi this year and they can continue to do so just like every year,” Nagesh said while speaking to the press in Bengaluru on August 17.

The statement, however, drew flak from Muslim outfits who questioned the minister’s green signal to Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations while continuing to favour the ban on wearing hijab in schools and colleges. Campus Front, the student wing of the hardline outfit Popular Front of India (PFI), condemned Nagesh’s statement. The outfit said the state government was hurting the sentiments of other religious communities by “favouring one community.”

Athavulla Punjalkatte, state president of Campus Front, in a tweet said that the state was Nagesh’s attempt to create unrest in the education sector and gain political advantage out of it.

B.C. Nagesh, however, later clarified that Ganesh Chaturthi should not be treated as a religious programme. “It is a movement. It has been celebrated since before Independence and this festival will unite the people. That’s what I said – that educational institutions are free to perform Ganesha pooja and celebrate the festival,” he told The Hindu.

Hijab Row

The row over wearing hijab on campus began in December last year when six students of a government girl’s college in Udupi were reportedly denied entry into classrooms for wearing the veil. This led to protests against the college authorities, but the matter soon became a state and national issue. Similar protests and counter-protests were reported from other parts of Karnataka.

Several petitions were filed in the Karnataka High Court where Muslim students sought the right to wear Hijabs in classrooms under Articles 14, 19 and 25 of the Constitution of India. The HC, however, ruled that right to wear a hijab is not constitutionally protected as it is not an essential religious practice of the Islamic faith.

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