KASARGOD: C K Nair Arts and Management College in Kanhangad here has temporarily suspended classes after differences over allowing purdah on campus led to clashes between two student groups. Principal A C Kunhikannan Nair said a conciliatory meeting of parents has been called on Saturday. “I hope the college will reopen on Monday,” he said.The principal said the college had a uniform and allowed students to wear casual clothes on Wednesdays. However, clothes such as face-covering purdah, collarless T-shirts, leggings and red, green and saffron lungis were not allowed on the campus, he said.
According to teachers and students, the controversy was triggered after four third-year students of BA English came to class wearing purdah on Wednesday.
The issue had been brewing since the beginning of this academic year. On August 2, a third year student of BA English came to class wearing ‘face-covering’ purdah, said the principal. “The teacher warned her and asked her to removed the purdah as it was against the college dress code,” said a classmate.
Protesting against the teacher’s action, the four students came to class wearing purdah last Wednesday. When they refused to take off the purdah, they were sent to the principal’s cabin. “We were defiant because the principal was trying to ban purdah now. This rule did not exist during our first two years on campus,” said Rahminas, one of the four students. She said she did not regularly wear purdah but decided to wear it to express solidarity with her classmate.
When the news spread four women were not allowed to enter class for wearing purdah, members of Muslim Students Federation (MSF), the student wing of the IUML, and National Students League (NSL), the student arm of the Indian National League, staged a march to the principal’s cabin and allegedly created ruckus. Seeing this, the SFI, controlling the college union, staged a protest march against the stance of the MSF and the NSL. The two groups clashed and the teachers had to intervene to break them up.On Thursday, the SFI alleged a group of MSF students led by district KSU leaders assaulted three of its members. In the police complaint, it was alleged SFI unit president and area vice-president Muhammed Shibil, 21, and members Nithin Chandran, 21, and Sreehari, 21, were injured. The MSF too had given a counter complaint.
Following the clash on Thursday, the principal suspended the classes. He said a section of students was using purdah as a prop to make political gains on the campus. “The college allows female students to use headscarf with their uniform. Even purdah is allowed on Wednesday provided they do not cover their face,” he said. On other days too, there was no restriction in coming to campus wearing burqa. “But they will have to remove it for class,” he said.Muhammed Shibil, the SFI unit president and third year BCom student, said the left organisation won all the union seats in the last election.