Bengaluru: Sristhi Institute of Art, Design and Technology which was in the thick of controversy over graffiti on prime minister Narendra Modi painted on the college walls has decided to ignore the dress code diktat allegedly given by local BJP supporters.
The BJP workers had stormed the institute’s campus, angry over the graffiti on Prime Minister Narendra Modi which ran the line “Sab Changa Si’ (all is well) across the bottom of the graphic with the PM’s index finger pointed at his mouth.
The BJP workers barged into the campus and peppered the authorities with questions on the dress code followed by students while announcing that wearing shorts and skirts was not in keeping with Indian tradition. They also objected to students smoking on the streets in public.
However, the management refused to buckle under pressure from the saffron groups, and said they had given their students freedom to wear any dress they wanted in spite of the alleged threat by associates of the powerful local MLA from Yelahanka constituency S R Vishwanath, who is also the political secretary to chief minister B S Yediyurappa.
MLA Vishwanath when contacted by Deccan Chronicle over the dress code clarified that neither he nor his supporters had raised an issue about a dress code. “Why would I choose specifically one college to impose a dress code? My daughter wears jeans, I can’t - and don’t - question my family on dress code, why would I question the students,” he maintained.
As a public representative, he had to speak to the college authorities on issues of traffic jam and public smoking. “The graffiti on the prime minister on the wall was not in good taste. It would have created unrest in the area. I spoke on these issues with the authorities,” he clarified.
When asked about it, Dr Geetha Narayanan, director of Sristhi Institute, stated, “Well, on the matter of dress code, Srishti has always had a dress code which gives students the freedom to wear whatever they want, within a framework of respectability.
“We have not changed that rule and that is applicable to all. The allegation is being made by the parties who came to my office on that day, that this was not keeping in Indian traditional culture and that the students had to dress appropriately in a way that reflects Indian culture,” she said.
“Now that is a difficult thing to enforce. We can enforce modesty, we can enforce respectability. But what is Indian traditional when everyone wears jeans, T shirts and dresses, and students no longer want to come in sarees or in only a salwar kameez,” Dr Narayanan said.
She maintained that as director of Srishti, she is very cautious about these things. Within a college, students are expected to come well-dressed, looking neat, and modest and that’s all they ask. “But, there are elements in our society that think dressing respectably means it must be a reflection of Indian culture. Then, I can’t do anything to support that,” she categorically stated.
She said however that the police have been helpful: “They have come here, they have spoken to me over the phone. We have not lodged any complaint in this regard so far,” she maintained.
“We closed the college out of abundant caution. At the moment we said that the college would reopen on Saturday but students have gone on leave for the festival and they might come back from Monday. With attendance in mind, I will take call in this regard,” Dr Geetha explained.
When asked if any elements had come back to the college pressing for a dress code, she said: “everything in life is matter of negotiation. What I would do is talk to them, talk to the students and build a safe climate of trust and collaboration in the neighborhood. That is my goal”.