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Jaya bats for dhoti
- CM vows to end club bias against traditional attire

Chennai, July 16: Clubs had better thrust their front foot forward and embrace the dhoti if they don’t want to be declared out lbw.

Not leg before wicket, but lbw as in Law to Ban such (discriminatory) Ways.

Chief minister Jayalalithaa today promised to put an end to discrimination against dhotis at various clubs in Chennai by enacting a law in the current session of the Assembly. Clubs could even lose their licences, she said, if they stopped anyone wearing a dhoti from entering.

The warning came days after a Madras High Court judge and two advocates were denied entry into the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA) Club, where they had gone to attend an event, because they were in the traditional attire.

Like several clubs in Chennai — or Calcutta — the one run by the state cricket body too bans collarless T-shirts, kurta-pyjamas or sandals for male members and guests, though women can wear a sari or salwar-kameez.

But Jayalalithaa said such outdated dress codes, remnants of the British era, were against Tamil culture and an individual’s constitutional rights.

While the club has been under attack for obstructing the field, Jayalalithaa said its actions also amounted to a hit wicket. “A reading of the bylaws of the TNCA Club disclosed that among the banned items in the dress code were Bermuda shorts, collarless T-shirts, rubber slippers and lungis but the dhoti is not mentioned anywhere. So their action goes against their own bylaws. It is nothing but sartorial authoritarianism and the registrar of societies has been asked to seek an explanation from the TNCA Club,” she told the House.

The BJP and the Congress lauded Jayalalithaa’s stand. “It is a welcome decision. It is an irony that a law has to be made to allow dhoti-clad people in clubs…. Dhoti is a common dress in states like Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh,” parliamentary affairs minister M. Venkaiah Naidu said in Delhi.

“I visited the UN wearing dhotis,” added fellow BJP veteran Murli Manohar Joshi.

Congress MP Shashi Tharoor said clubs could have their own rules. “But how can you restrict entry when the club profits from public functions by renting (out) the premises?”

Justice T. Hari Paranthaman and the two advocates — G.R. Swaminathan and R. Gandhi — had gone to Chepauk Stadium on Friday to attend a book release when they were stopped.

After the controversy broke, state cricket association secretary Kasi Viswanathan said the dress code applied to everyone, member or guest. “The book release was a private event and while booking the hall, the organisers had been informed in writing about the dress code for guests. It’s the failure of the organiser not to have mentioned the dress code in his invitation.”

Failure or not, a former high court judge has already raised the finger. “Why do judges come to courts in colonial gowns and coats though there is no specific dress code for them?” K. Chandru said in a signed article on the controversy, calling upon lawyers and judges to shed the Raj-era attire.