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Gold medallist says no to gown at convocation,ousted from venue

Pant argued the gown was a colonial relic and there was no place for such a dress code in an independent country.

Written by Prashant Pandey | Allahabad |
November 30, 2013 4:07:10 am

A student of the Sampurnanand Sanskrit Vishwavidyalaya (SSV),Varanasi,who was to be awarded nine gold medals and a silver medal for his meritorious performance,refused to wear the traditional gown at the university’s 31st convocation Thursday.

The university officials first tried to convince Suman Chandra Pant,a Sahityacharya (equivalent to M A in Literature),failing which he was ousted by the administration officials from the convocation venue,where Governor B L Joshi was awarding medals in the presence of the chief guest,former Supreme Court Judge Justice M K Sharma.

Pant argued the gown was a colonial relic and there was no place for such a dress code in an independent country.

SSV Vice-Chancellor Prof Binda Prasad Mishra,however,dismissed the episode as a “stunt”.

“As the guests took their seats at the stage,Pant refused to wear the gown. A few other students joined him and insisted on wearing dhoti,kurta and jacket. However,as per rules,this could not have been allowed. Many senior university officials tried to persuade them but to no avail. Subsequently,they were removed from the convocation pandal,” said a university official.

The official added that Pant’s refusal came late in the day and nothing could be changed then. “Maybe the issue can be taken up in future. But our priority on the day was to organise the function smoothly,” added the official.

Talking to The Indian Express over the phone from Lucknow,where he is now pursuing a Ph. D from Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan,Pant said: “The issue was not raised of a sudden. In July,a researcher,Umesh Chandra Shukla,who,too,was among those who refused to wear the gown,had written to the Governor,who is the Chancellor of the University,on the issue. But no decision was taken. When I came to know about the convocation on November 20,I wrote to Raj Bhavan. I wanted a special permission should at least be granted to me for wearing dhoti,kurta and jacket. But the university was not interested.”

“Another student,Vipin Dwivedi,took his gown off on the stage and put it on his shoulders in support of our demand,” added Pant.

The administration also prevented students from blocking the Governor’s fleet after the programme.

Pant argued that gowns were related to “some religious rituals” of the British but had come to be associated with honour in the Indian universities due to the colonial hangover.

Prof Mishra,however,said: “This is all a stunt. Those protesting the dress code are themselves unaware of the tradition. The convocation dress was decided by learned people more than 55 years ago. There are specific rules for it. This paridhan (dress),its colour,style and the fabric has been detailed in the rules. It is not the gown that is generally worn at other institutes. It is more like an ‘achkan’ (long kurta) and there is a topi (cap),which was worn by the likes of Madan Mohan Malviya.”

He added tthere would be no re-think on the dress code.

Last year,Pant had unsuccessfully contested for the post of president in the student union election at the university. Subsequently,he had approached the Allahabad High Court against the election. The HC had left it to the V-C to take a decision,which was not in Pant’s favour.

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