Ills and frills of convocation robe
Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh's publicly displayed aversion to the convocation robe, that he decried as a colonial legacy, is being hotly debated in Madhya Pradesh.bhopal Updated: Apr 07, 2010 11:35 IST
Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh's publicly displayed aversion to the convocation robe, that he decried as a colonial legacy, is being hotly debated in Madhya Pradesh.
Educationists and students have criticised the manner in which Ramesh showed his disgust for the robe at the Indian Institute of Forest Management (IIFM) Bhopal convocation ceremony last week. But the minister, who is a Congress leader, has found support from unexpected quarters - the state's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its youth wing, the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM).
Pushpendra Pal Singh, journalism department head in Makhanlal Chaturvedi University of Journalism, Bhopal, told IANS: "I don't think it was a proper way for the minister to express his views.
"He should have taken some other concrete measure like getting the ordinance changed to put a stamp of disapproval on the practice that has existed for decades."
Ashutosh Seetha, a student of the university, also did not agree with the minister. "This is a tradition that people take as a token of honour."
Ramesh Friday caused a flutter at IIFM by terming the wearing of the traditional convocation robe, comprising a coloured gown and a mortarboard (cap) as a "barbaric colonial practice" appropriate for "vicars and popes" and removed the ceremonial gown he was wearing.
"Why can't we wear simple dress instead of these gowns?" he asked.
Ramesh also criticised the practice of throwing the mortarboard in the air after receiving the degree. He asked whether it was worn to be thrown in the air.
Laxmi Sharma, a teacher, said: "How many things are we going to change? We have got many good things also from the British. Even our education system was given by Macaulay."
Graduate student Somnath Patidar said: "On one hand we prefer foreign education and on the other we are discarding the dress code introduced by the British. In fact, a panel should be constituted to look into all such contentious issues in our education system."
However, the BJP, including some Madhya Pradesh ministers, have appreciated Ramesh's idea and the way he presented it.
Senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi said: "Ramesh did the right thing and I support his action. There is absolutely nothing wrong. I had also opposed wearing a ceremonial gown, as it is against Indian culture, and removed it once."
"The tradition of wearing it at a convocation ceremony started when the religious places were the centres of learning in the West but it is not required in the Indian system of education," Joshi, a former human resources development minister, said in Indore.
State School Education Minister Archana Chitnis, who opposed the tradition during the convocation ceremony at Barkatul1ah University last year, describing it as a "sign of slavery", said it should be changed and if needed the central government should issue an order in this regard.
"We appear like cartoons in these borrowed costumes. The dress meant for the occasion should be chosen according to the country's culture and the governor should give his consent in making amendments in the Act (concerned)," she said.
In November, state Commerce and IT Minister Kailash Vijayvargiya had mooted the idea of replacing the British colonial era costume with an Indian version at the convocation of Indore's Devi Ahilya Vishwavidyalaya (DAVV).
Vijayvargiya, who also saw in the dress "a sign of colonial slavery," said: "The British legacy should be replaced with something like dhoti-kurta and Rajasthani turban, and tilak should be applied on the foreheads of students."
BJYM state president Vishwas Sarang hailed the minister's decision. He said in a statement that the convocation ceremony was not a British legacy as it had been organised for years, but the convocation robe definitely was.
Sarang also wrote a letter to Ramesh, appreciating his stand.
However, Ramesh has said: "Please do not create a controversy. My advice has nothing to do with the 'swadeshi' (indigenous) and 'videshi' (foreign) debate, nor give it the colour of East vs West to make your headlines."