1:56 am - Wednesday July 17, 2019

J Jayalalithaa warns of tough action against clubs disfavouring traditional Indian attire

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CHENNAI: The Tamil Nadu chief minister accused clubs of “sartorial despotism” and threatened to enact laws overriding dress codes seen as disfavouring Indian attire.

The manoeuvre by J Jayalalithaa allows her to claim credit for upholding Tamil cultural pride even though rival DMK was there before her to create a hullabaloo after a Madras High Court judge was refused entry into the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA) on Friday.

While the politicians’ loyalty very clearly lay with Tamil pride, the high court said on Wednesday that it was loath to intervene in the dispute even if a brother judge may have been denied entry into the club because he was wearing the veshti, the traditional men’s garment in Tamil Nadu.

“If the clubs act against Tamil culture in future, the government will resort to cancelling licences granted to them,” Jayalalithaa said in a suo motu statement on the floor of the state assembly.

She said her government would bring in legislation to put an end to the practice of denying dhoti-clad people entry into clubs in the state.

And this has put the city’s elite clubs in a tight spot. Seven clubs with whom ET spoke to said the rule change cannot be made overnight or within weeks. Such decisions can only be taken at the annual general meeting, or during the committee meetings, they said. “There is a process. We first need to see the notification that the Tamil Nadu government issues, then we need to inform the committee members about this. Then, we will have to send a notification to all the members of the club and decide on what to do,” said a source at the Madras Boat Club, one of the oldest in the city.

A Madras Gymkhana Club representative, who did not want to be identified, said, “This is an institution and not an individual. We need to inform all members first and then take a call in the general body meeting.” Secretaries of top clubs in the city, including Madras Boat Club, Madras Gymkhana Club and TNCA, were not available for comment. But club members don’t seem to be convinced with the Tamil Nadu government’s idea. They feel that clubs are places to socialise for “select likeminded” members who appreciate a “certain decorum” to be maintained.
“Clubs do not give membership to anyone and everyone just because one has money. They do a background check and also put up a notification asking whether the concerned person can be added as a member. And in such places we definitely need to have a dress code and one cannot enter in a dhoti,” said Narasimhan Sekhar, a businessman and a member of one of the clubs in Chennai.
“If a person is denied entry at a restaurant or hotel, yes, that’s a concern, but in clubs one has to follow the rules and the dress code.”

Interestingly, the courts have refused to intervene. The Madras High Court on Wednesday observed that a public interest litigation on the dhoti issue could not be entertained as no constitutional provision had been violated.
Former special public prosecutor for human rights cases V Kannadasan said, “The government can pass an ordinance to nullify the rule of banning veshtis/dhotis in club. As per the Societies Act this is amendable and clubs registered under this Act are bound to follow government rules. However, the clubs can also challenge this in court as these are rules for members of the club and not for the general public.”

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