Periyar University's ban on black clothes for convocation sparks rowtext_fields
Salem: A circular issued by Periyar University authorities in Salem district regarding the convocation dress code has sparked outrage and heated debates.
The circular, later withdrawn by the university, instructed students not to wear black clothes during the upcoming convocation. It also asked students to refrain from using their phones during the event.
The Registrar of Periyar University stated that the circular was issued based on instructions from the Salem district police. The 21st convocation, scheduled for Wednesday, June 28, will be attended by Governor RN Ravi, who serves as the chancellor for all universities in the state.
He will be feting the students on the occasion, and hence the ‘No black’ code. The university withdrew the circular on Tuesday evening after it faced severe backlash.
The controversy stems from the historical significance of black as a symbol of protest and the association of Periyar EV Ramasamy, the founder of the Dravidian movement, with black attire.
Black clothing has become a common form of protest across the country, dating back to the time when authorities banned black flag demonstrations. In an ironic twist, the convocation gown itself is traditionally black.
The state of Tamil Nadu is renowned as the land of the Dravidians, and Periyar, a prominent figure in the movement, was known for his black shirts and encouraged his followers to do the same.
Hence, the official directive against wearing black in a university named after him adds another layer of irony to the circular issued by the Registrar. Predictably, political leaders have voiced their opposition.
Reacting to the circular, Madurai CPI (M) MP Su Venkatesan said: “The Salem District Police has advised students not to wear black clothes to the Periyar University Convocation in which the Governor will be taking part. I also request the police to advise the Governor that he should not wear Sanathana, which was chased away by Periyar’s walking stick.”
Talking to The News Minute (TNM), Salem City Commissioner Vijayakumari insisted that the police department did not give any such instructions to the university administration.
“We oversee the security of the event. But we did not give any instructions regarding dress code for the students,” she said refuting the claims made in the circular.
“Regarding this, we have already spoken to the Registrar and told the administration not to drag the police department into this,” she added.
Talking to TNM, the leader of Thanthai Periyar Dravidar Kazhagam condemned the order from the university. He said that there was no rule that entitled the university to decide which colour clothes students could wear or not wear.
Ramakrishnan called the direction despotic. "They might have issued this order based on the Governor's directions. We, Thanthai Periyar Dravidar Kazhagam, condemn this direction," he added.
The Tamil Nadu wing of the Students' Federation of India (SFI) also issued a statement against the university administration and demanded withdrawal of the directive. Central Chennai SFI president Arun told TNM that it is an undemocratic move and that the university administration does not have the authority to decide on behalf of the students.
"It is their choice to wear what they want, one should not interfere with someone's personal choice," he stressed.
The Dravidar Viduthalai Kazhagam has announced a black flag protest against the Governor during his visit to Salem.
In a Twitter post, the outfit alleged that Ravi failed to give assent to the bills meant for the welfare of Tamil Nadu that were passed in the Assembly. This kind of behaviour by the Governor obstructed the development of the state, it charged.
Additionally, Governor Ravi's role as the chancellor of all universities has been a point of contention. Delayed convocations have prevented students from applying to foreign educational institutions, as claimed by Tamil Nadu Higher Education Minister K Ponmudi.
The minister further alleged that the Governor insisted on inviting Union Ministers as guests and cited their unavailability as the reason for the delay in granting his consent.
Over nine lakh students awaiting their degree certificates were being kept on tenterhooks unnecessarily by the Governor, Ponmudi had said on June 8.