Mangalore: Muslims in the southern Indian city of Mangaluru have protested the dress code of the first college for women in southern India.
St Agnes College, started in 1921, is one of the top destinations for higher education for women in Mangaluru. It is managed by the Sisters of the Apostolic Carmel Congregation.
It has incurred the ire of some Muslims with its ban on hijab inside the classroom.
Hijab refers to the head dress worn by Muslim women to cover their hair, neck and ear.
While the college management says the rule has been in existence from the beginning of the college, its Muslim students allege the college hinders their practice of religion.
“The college cannot take away our right to wear hijab from us,” Fathima, one of the protestors, told media at a protest outside the college on June 25.
The protest that was live streamed on Youtube. It was organized under the aegis of the Campus Front of India, a students’ organization whose members almost exclusively comprise Muslims.
College authorities said that the dress code is made clear to the students when they join and they cannot ask for modifications halfway through the year.
“The management has framed rules and regulations to maintain order and discipline,” said Apostolic Carmel Sister M Jeswina, the principal. The dress code is applicable inside the classroom only, she added.
“The students and their parents are aware of this rule before seeking admission to our college,” she added.
Sister Jeswina also said that the college enjoyed special protection as minority institution. Under the Indian constitution, recognized institutions run by linguistic and religious minorities enjoy a high level of autonomy and exemption from many laws so as to enable them to promote and preserve their culture.
According to Semitic religious texts such as the Bible and the Quran, women are supposed to cover their hair for modesty.
However, only a small minority of Christian women, including nuns, now cover their hair.
The Campus Front is active in northern districts of Kerala and the adjoining, southern coastal districts of Karnataka.
St. Agnes College was opened nearly a century ago as the golden jubilee memorial of the Apostolic Carmel congregation to impart high quality higher education to women.
It attained academic autonomy in 2007 and made its first foray into Post graduate education in 2008.
It is not only the first women’s college to be established in southern India India but the first in the nation founded and managed by an Indian private management.
Its sprawling campus has a women’s hostel.
The college has planned a host of activities and celebrations to mark its centenary in 2020.