Kerala boys prefer dhotis, girls churidars;
colleges will have none of it
D Jose in Thiruvananthapuram
Two colleges in Kerala are witnessing an interesting battle against the dress codes that have been prescribed for male and female students.
While boys in the Vazhichal Emmanuel College at Kattakkada want to wear dhotis, the traditional dress of Malayalees, girls in the Government Training College at Thiruvananthapuram want to wear churidars.
Both do not have the sanction of the respective college managements. While the VEC, run by the Catholic church, wants boys to wear pants, the GTC wants the girls to attend classes in sarees. Both have their own reasons for insisting on the dress code. While the former says the dhoti is not a decent dress, the latter insists that churidars do not provide a matured and serious look to the teacher-trainees when they take classes.
The trouble in VEC started when seven students decided to attend the college on the Malayalam new year day wearing the traditional dress. The college management did not relish the idea and suspended all of them. Protesting against this, a section of the students went on a strike.
Cutting across political lines, the major students unions have rallied behind the dhoti lovers. College authorities have declared three-day holiday in view of the strike.
Though the college management has agreed to allow the students to wear dhotis on special occasions like Onam, Christmas, New Year etc, the students are insisting on the freedom to wear the dress of their choice.
A number of social and cultural activists have lent support to the traditionalists. A joint statement issued by a group of intellectuals, including O N V Kurup, Shaji N Karun, Dr Ninan Koshy, actor Murali and Kaniyapuram Ramachandran condemned the college authorities for their attempt to undermine the traditional dress. The intellectuals have termed the stand of the college authorities as part of an attempt to sterilise the new generation culturally.
"They are trying to wipe out the remaining signs of Kerala culture from the minds of students by pushing them into a highly mechanical life," the statement said and warned that it would not help in any way.
The statement said the college authorities have tried to humiliate the culture of the state by insisting on avoiding dhotis. They hoped that the authorities would revoke their decision. The University Union held a symposium on the dress code on Wednesday.
The row in the GTC began when a Muslim girl, Anila Ahmed, came to the college sporting a churidar saying it was comfortable for her to wear purdah over it. However, college principal Jacob Mathew turned her away forcing Anila to approach Kerala University vice-chancellor Dr B Ekbal for redressal.
Though women activists joined hands with Anila and staged a demonstration before the college demanding freedom to use churidars, she subsequently withdrew her complaint, apparently, under pressure from various quarters.
Interestingly, no intellectual came forward to support the girls. Women cite this as the best example of the hypocrisy among men.
Kerala Stree Vedi leader Dr Jayashree told rediff.com that men have not supported the movement because they want to see the women in sarees.
According to her, women not only feel comfortable in churidars but also find it ideal to cover her entire body. "In a sari, several parts of the body remain exposed. The men prefer sarees for obvious reasons," Dr Jayashree said.
She is not prepared to let the issue die down even though the girl was forced to withdraw her complaint. She said that the Stree Vedi would mobilise public opinion and fight against the college authorities' insistence on wearing sarees.
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