Controversy over Manik Sarkar’s refusal to don convocation robe

January 13th, 2012 - 5:45 pm ICT by IANS  

Sheikh Hasina Agartala, Jan 13 (IANS) A controversy erupted Friday over Chief Minister Manik Sarkar’s refusal to wear the regulation gown at the Tripura University convocation, with the opposition Congress saying this was against etiquette.

“The chief minister’s refusal to wear the regulation gown is unwarranted and against the tradition of the university. This is against good manners,” Tripura leader of opposition Ratan Lal Nath told reporters.

He said: “If the chief minister failed to maintain Indian civility in front of foreign dignitaries, he should not be invited to the convocation or he himself should not attend such a prestigious event.”

Sarkar, along with Vice President Hamid Ansari, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, foreign minister Dipu Moni, Tripura Governor D.Y. Patil, union Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal, university chancellor Amiya Kumar Bagchi, vice chancellor Arunoday Saha, and other dignitaries took part in the ceremonial academic procession before the ninth convocation of the Tripura central university Thursday.

While Sarkar sported a kurta-pajama, all the others wore convocation gowns.

But defending himself, Sarkar, 63, who has been the chief minister of Tripura since 1998, told IANS: “Why should I wear the colonial relic? Cannot we maintain our own Indian tradition to make the convocation-like event sacred?”

“Kabiguru Rabindranath Tagore had introduced the gorgeous scarf, why we should not use that? We should break the British practice (of convocation gowns),” the Marxist leader said.

In September 2010 also, he had turned down the university’s request to wear the regulation robe during its eighth convocation.

“The chief minister refused to put on the convocation gown. We can’t force him to wear it,” a university official told IANS on condition of anonymity.

“According to the university’s convocation statute, wearing a coloured gown is mandatory,” the official added.

In April 2010, union minister Jairam Ramesh, while attending the convocation of the Indian Institute of Forest Management in Bhopal had also refused to wear the convocation gown.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar recently called for a debate on wearing a gown at university convocations.

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