Five days after a private club in Chennai provoked public outrage by denying entry to a Madras High Court judge dressed in a dhoti, Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa called the act an “insult” to Tamil culture. The AIADMK chief assured the Assembly on Wednesday that a law will be passed to put an end to such practices in elite city clubs. The CM also promised prompt action against the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA) in Chepauk, which had on July 11 denied admission to Justice D Hariparanthaman and two other guests ostensibly for violating the dress code of the club. Experts have since examined the bylaws of the club and said they found no mention therein of a rule against wearing dhotis.
At elite clubs in Chennai, members and their guests are expected to be well-dressed, which for men is usually interpreted as Western attire. “The way of tying the dhoti in the Tamil Nadu style may leave it to a number of aspects of exposure. Many clubs cite this as a reason for not allowing guests in dhotis,” a member of the Madras Club said.
However, in a state where most politicians prefer a dhoti and a white shirt over Western attire, charges of indecent exposure have backfired. R Gandhi, 77, a senior advocate who was turned away along with Justice Hariparanthaman, said it was an “arbitrary reaction” by the club’s staff against respectable men “in their natural dress”. “Wasn’t MGR decently dressed when he wore a veshti? Isn’t DMK chief M Karunanidhi decently dressed? The CM has made the government’s stand amply clear,” he said.
Following the outcry over the issue, Jayalalithaa has directed the Tamil Nadu Registrar of Societies to issue a showcause notice to the TNCA asking it to explain its actions. Making a suo motu statement in the Assembly, she also threatened to revoke the licences of clubs that continue to frown upon Indian attire.
“All parties support the Chief Minister in the matter,” said J Anbazhagan, the DMK MLA from the Chepauk-Thiruvallikeni constituency. “This issue has been brewing for a long time. We welcome the government’s intervention. Once the Bill is passed, clubs can no longer look down upon the veshti,” he says.
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