BENGALURU: Even as the hijab issue is being hotly debated, uniforms in schools were introduced in the 1980s when Ramakrishna Hegde was Chief Minister. The then Education Minister in the Hegde Cabinet, M Raghupathy on Thursday said that when the uniforms were introduced back then, the issue of the hijab was raised and the then Janata Party government had granted exemption to Muslim students to wear the headscarf.
The former minister put up a post on Facebook stating, “In 1985, as Education Minister in the cabinet of late Chief Minister Ramakrishna Hegde, I had introduced the scheme of free uniform for students in government schools, city corporation, municipal and panchayat schools. This was for the first time uniforms were introduced in Karnataka. Students, both girls and boys, would get free uniforms.
“We had clearly specified that girl students belonging to the minority community wearing the hijab or a nun’s habit, and coming to government institutions, was not a problem because it would not disturb the academic environment in schools and colleges in any way.’’ In his post, he appealed that, “no political party should make it an issue and disturb the atmosphere in schools and colleges. “I appeal to the government to bring peace and harmony in educational institutions,’’ he added.
Speaking to The New Indian Express, Raghupathy recalled that wearing of uniforms was introduced in PU colleges later. The hijab issue was discussed way back then and sorted out. Since hijab is mandated by religion, students could wear it without any problem and this practice has continued uninte-rrupted since then, he said.
Raghupathy also recalled that the decision to give free uniforms and textbooks cost the government about Rs 40 crore annually in those days. Raghupathy recalled that he had discussions about this with the then Union Congress ministers in the government headed by then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, while he himself was in the Janata Party.
Raghupathy also recalled that Christian nuns who wear a habit and those belonging to other religions, like Jain women, who wear a covering on the head, were also given exemption then. Interestingly, the BJP, with 18 seats, which had extended outside support to the Janata Party government, which had 95 seats, had not objected to this, Raghupathy pointed out.