IIT-Kharagpur’s convocation dress code sets off debate

Updated - November 07, 2023 12:48 pm IST

Published - November 07, 2023 04:08 am IST

Image for representation purpose only.

Image for representation purpose only.

A guideline issued by IIT Kharagpur authorities regarding the dress code for this year’s convocation has sparked Opposition from a section of the institute’s alumni, students and academics

Controversy appears to be slowly building up on social media over the guidelines issued by IIT-Kharagpur on what students should wear — and even how they should wear that — during the 2023 convocation that is likely to be held towards the end of the year. 

As per the guidelines, being circulated on social media now, boys should wear full-sleeved, knee-length, plain, solid white, cotton kurtas with bund collar (mandarin collar) and a straight hem. “Pair the kurta with a white vest as an undershirt,” they have been instructed. The bottom wear for them should be “white, fitted cotton churidar or pyjama” and footwear “brown close-toed Indian juti or Kolhapuri chappal.” Wrist watches are allowed, and jewellery, if worn, should be restricted to a “simple neck chain, kada, small ear studs, and finger rings”. 

Girls, on the other hand, must wear plain, solid white cotton sarees with plain, narrow, golden zari border and plain pallu. The saree to be worn in the Parsi style, with pleated pallu, and “paired with a white petticoat”. The blouse, too, must be white with sleeves — sleeveless blouses and latkans are not allowed. They, too, are required to wear brown close-toed Indian juti or Kolhapuri chappal. Wrist watches are allowed and jewellery, if worn, should be restricted to a “simple neck chain, two simple bangles or wristlets, ear studs or earrings (danglers not allowed), and finger rings.” 

While it is not unusual for an institution to have a dress code for events such as convocation, what has angered many is the details (such as the mention of the petticoat colour) and also the restrictions imposed (no sleeveless blouse, for example).

The institute, however, later claimed that the mail sent to students — regarding the dress code — was just a guideline and not mandatory. “​The mail that was issued to the students regarding the convocation attire was mentioned explicitly due to the theme of the 69th Convocation. It is just a guideline for the students so that it becomes easier for them to comprehend and look the part on their special day. The notice issued by the committee is a preference and do not fall under mandatory requisites. They can wear whatever they want under the normal code of conduct befitting the occasion,” a media executive of IIT-Kharagpur said on Monday evening.

Voices on social media, however, were getting louder, with most criticising the institute and some saying that people were unnecessarily raising a hue and cry. 

“Looks like the institute is trying to produce obedient soldiers. This is just the reflection of what’s happening in this prestigious institution for the past three-four years. Whatever happened to freedom and creativity?” an assistant professor from IIT-Kharagpur told The Hindu, asking not to be named. 

The controversy appears to have been set off by a social media post by Subhradip Ghosh, a professor at IIT-Guwahati, who shared the guidelines on Facebook and wrote, ”What’s next IIT-Kharagpur? School for sanskari fashion technology?” His post is now being shared by many. 

Then there are people who think it is pointless to debate such issues. Rwitarupa Banerjee, a freelance writer who studied linguistics at the University of Calcutta, said: “It’s funny to me that people seem to take offence at rather trivia​l issues such as this without contextualising it. I would be against a dress code if it was enforced on a daily basis.”

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