Amidst ongoing scrutiny of the Karnataka government’s actions, a fresh controversy has emerged over the modification of examination times to accommodate Muslim students for their Friday prayers. The Karnataka State Examination and Assessment Board’s decision to schedule the SSLC preparatory exams in the afternoon on Friday, March 1, has drawn criticism from the opposition BJP, labelling it as another instance of minority appeasement by the Siddaramaiah-led administration.
This move comes on the heels of recent incidents, including the removal of a saffron flag bearing Lord Hanuman’s image by authorities in Keragodu Village, Karnataka. The substitution of the “Hanuman Dhwaja” with the Tricolour during the Republic Day function on January 26 stirred controversy, as did the removal of a similar flag from a 108-feet high pole in Mandya.
Furthermore, a green flag hoisted in Bengaluru’s Shivaji Nagar also sparked outrage, leading to its removal by the Municipal Corporation after demands from the BJP.
The exams are scheduled to take place from February 26 to March 3.
While all exams in Karnataka typically commence at 10:15 a.m. daily, an exception has been made for March 1, a Friday, when the Science subject examination is set for 2 p.m. Hindu organisations claim that this modification is a gesture of appeasement towards Muslims, allowing them to offer morning prayers on Friday.
Srikantha Naik, a Hindu leader from Bhatkal, alleges that the education department altered the timetable at the behest of the Congress government, accusing them of engaging in direct appeasement within the education sector.
The issue of change in the preparatory examination timings on Friday for Class 10 students in Karnataka has taken a communal turn with Hindu organisations alleging that the step was taken to facilitate namaz for Muslims.https://t.co/GklLOjVsVP
— The Siasat Daily (@TheSiasatDaily) February 5, 2024
Basangouda R Patil, BJP Yatnal MLA, expressed concern over the timing change, questioning why certain community interests were prioritised over other significant events like the consecration of Bhagawan Rama in Ayodhya and festivals such as Sri Ram Navami and Naga Panchami. He asserted that even on such occasions, no holidays are provided.
In response to the growing criticism, Minister for School Education and Literacy, Madhu Bangarappa, offered clarification. He explained that the decision to schedule the SSLC preparatory exam in the afternoon on Friday was due to the II Pre-University exam also commencing on the same day. Bangarappa emphasised the logistical clash between the two exams and clarified that, given the importance of the II Pre-University exam, it takes precedence and is therefore scheduled first.
Bangarappa dismissed the BJP’s allegations, stating, “BJP has no better business than creating some talk around this.” The controversy sheds light on the delicate balance between religious accommodations and logistical considerations in Karnataka’s educational landscape, fueling discussions on minority appeasement and fair treatment of all communities.