CHENNAI: It's not even a month since the Supreme Court elaborated how right to privacy is a so fundamental that an individual's choice from food to beliefs are unquestionable. But on Sunday for the people who went to watch the match between India and Australia, they were told they have no right to wear black.
The police and the security guards at the entrance of the M A Chidambaram stadium in Chennai stopped people who happen to wear black shirts or T shirts. No explanations were given to people who questioned this sudden and weird rule. Instead, they were given a choice to buy a new shirt from nearby shops and surrender the black shirts at the entrance. After the match, the black shirts were returned to the people.
"It was not there in the initial conditions laid down by the police. But based on some intelligence inputs that some students might protest over the NEET issue, they decided to enforce this rule in the morning. Though a few protestors were stopped, a few people who inadvertently wore black also had to suffer. Once they changed shirts, the police allowed them inside," said a Tamil Nadu Cricket Association.
Apparently, the police took the decision to not allow people wearing black inside the stadium due to some social media campaigns asking spectators of the cricket match wear black as a mark of protest over several issues Tamil Nadu is facing. This includes the imposition of NEET-based medical admissions and petro-chemical projects in the delta region.
"I wore black by chance today," said S Maharaja, a college student. "The authorities are taking it too far! Why should I spend money on another t-shirt to enter? I have tickets and nothing was mentioned about dress code when I purchased it," he said.
The terms and conditions in the TNCA's ticket has no clause that can even be extended to justify such a restriction. It only bans bringing items like alcohol, camera, umbrella and food items (a few were even complaining the exorbitant charging of Rs 10 for a cup of water in the stadium).
Like Maharaja, many other cricket fans had to shell out a few hundred rupees, change into a jersey and leave their black shirts behind at the checkpoint.
"Sports teams wear black armbands as a mark of mourning. Why shouldn't spectators be able to express themselves in the same way?" asked Dannie Britto, a student from Chennai. What can be a more peaceful form of registering a protest.
Greatly disappointed with the government's incursion into their choice of clothing, some fans said the government was scared of being exposed. "The cricket match will be watched by people across India who might not watch news channels. The government is frightened of the many new youth who would have been sensitised to the atrocities happening in Tamil Nadu," said a youth who wished to remain anonymous.
While the t-shirts were returned to the spectators after the match, police allegedly chased away ones who tried to document this. “I was chased away when I tried to click a picture of the black t-shirts being returned,” said Dannie Britto.