Hijab to anti-conversion: New Congress govt to review contentious Karnataka decisions.

Karnataka will review a string of controversial decisions taken by the previous government such as an anti-conversion law, the hijab ban in educational institutions, and tweaks in textbooks — and even possibly reverse some of them, senior functionaries in the new regime have indicated.

On Wednesday, state minister Priyank Kharge said that many orders and laws enforced by the previous government were “against the interest of the state”, a day after chief minister Siddaramaiah said his government will come down heavily on incidents of moral policing and deputy CM DK Shivakumar warned that the state police will be “de-saffronised”.

Together, their statements hinted that the new Congress administration in the state was looking at a so-called de-saffronisation drive, aimed at rolling back some of the previous Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government’s communally polarising decisions that stoked controversy and a raft of court cases.

Kharge said many orders and laws enforced under the previous BJP regime such as school textbook revisions and anti-conversion laws were against state interest and will be revised or withdrawn by the new Congress government after reviewing them.

“The previous government decided to observe certain jayanti (birth anniversary of prominent figures) and left out others. Not only jayanti, their orders, whether it is regarding textbooks, anti-cow slaughter, anti-conversion bills (laws), all of them will be revised,” Kharge said.

Among the most controversial decisions by the previous government was restrictions on wearing hijab in classrooms that came into effect last year and prompted some students to approach the Supreme Court, which will set up a larger bench to hear the case after a two-judge bench delivered a split verdict.

“…Any executive order that goes against the image of Karnataka, that goes against getting investment or creating employment, will be reviewed and rejected, if necessary. It does not matter if it is anti-conversion bill, the cow slaughter bill, or the hijab thing — everything will be looked at from the economic perspective and progressive point of view and then we will take a call,” he told news channel India Today.

Amid rising demands for a review of the hijab restrictions, senior Congress lawmaker NA Haris called the decision unconstitutional on Wednesday.

When asked about the demand, senior minister G Parameswara said: “We will see in future what best we can do. Right now, we have to fulfil the five guarantees we made to the people of Karnataka.”

The BJP lashed out at the Congress, with former chief minister Basavaraj Bommai saying The CM-DCM duo has decided to implement their agenda of appeasement politics and as part of it,” Bommai alleged.

The Congress displaced the BJP in the recently concluded assembly elections earlier this month.

On Tuesday at a press conference, Siddaramaiah warned against moral policing. “No more moral policing. We will put an end to this,” he told reporters. The CM also warned the police brass that they would be held responsible if the law-and-order situation deteriorated in their areas.

In the same press conference, Shivakumar said the police will have to be de-saffronised “We know how [some] police officers came to the police station wearing saffron shawls. If it was patriotism, then they should have come to work wearing the national flag. We will not allow saffronisation of the police department,” Shivakumar said.

He stood by his statement on Wednesday and said he was referring to how police personnel in some places wore saffron instead of their uniform to pose for photographs.

Bommai replaced former CM Yediyurappa in 2021 and quickly endorsed a raft of controversial decisions.

In 2022, his government pushed through an anti-conversion bill that the government said was needed to check forced conversions but the opposition said was aimed at targeting Christians and Muslims. In February 2022, the administration issued an order effectively barring hijabs in schools and colleges. In December 2022, senior ministers backed campaigns against halal meat and the use of loudspeakers in mosques during morning prayers or azaan. And on several occasions in 2022 the BJP government defended the actions of right-wing groups blocking Muslims from setting up shops in temples and taking part in religious fairs, going against decades of established traditions in the state.

In its successful poll campaign, the Congress accused the BJP of focussing on a polarising agenda rather than governance, and assured the people of reviewing controversial decisions to “de-saffronise” the state.

Kharge said that said the new government will withdraw all laws and orders that hamper the state’s economic progress and prosperity, and go against the interests of Kannadigas.

“All those bills (laws) and orders that hamper the economic progress of Karnataka, its prosperity, and affect Kannadigas, will be withdrawn. Making Karnataka once again the number one is our intention, and we will take steps in that direction,” added Kharge.

Bommai said Karnataka Police was never saffron used. “The Karnataka Police have a good name in the entire country and the cops have never done saffronisation. The duo has decided to implement their agenda and as part of it, they have brought down the morale of the police department. The Congress has started its appeasement politics from day one of assuming power in the state,” alleged Bommai.

Former home minister and BJP lawmaker Araga Jnanendra accused Shivakumar and Siddaramaiah of trying to “Congress-ise” the police force. “Our policing system is very good. The police acts as per law. They don’t discriminate on the basis of religion,” he said.

Source- Hindustan Times.

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