The college, run by Sisters of the Apostolic Carmel Congregation, said students have to conform to the college’s dress code that has been in existence since the beginning.
Students, on the other hand, alleged the college was stopping them from practicing their 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 today.
The protest, which was live streamed on Youtube, 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 Sr Jeswina AC, principal of St Agnes, clarifying that the dress code is applicable inside the classroom only.
“The students and their parents are aware of this rule before seeking admission to our college,” she added.
Sr 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.
Hijab refers to the head dress worn by Muslim women to cover their hair, neck and ear.
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.