Jublee Tamuli and her father travelled 70km from their hometown Biswanath to the town of Tezpur for the entrance exam of Assam Agricultural University.
Yet on Wednesday the invigilator at her exam centre, the Girijananda Chowdhury Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, prohibited her from entering the exam hall because of her clothes. “He said I would not be allowed to enter wearing shorts,” she told The Indian Express.
Ms Tamuli added that the admit card – a registration document including instructions for the exam – did not mention a dress code. In fact, she said, she had appeared for another entrance exam in Tezpur wearing the same clothes and faced no problem. “I was told short dresses are not allowed, then why is it not mentioned in the admit card?” she asked while speaking to reporters outside the exam hall. “Is it a crime to wear shorts?”
“I went crying to my father who was waiting outside,” she said. “Finally, the Controller of Exams said I could take the exam, if a pair of pants could be arranged. So my father rushed to the market to buy a pair.”
Before Ms Tamuli’s father returned with a pair of trousers, some fellow students had the idea of wrapping a curtain around her legs so that she didn’t lose out on any more examination time. The officials accepted, and she was then allowed to enter the examination hall.
“They said that if I lacked basic common sense, how would I succeed in life,” the student said. “They did not check for Covid protocols, masks or even temperature, but they checked for shorts.”
Abdul Baqee, the principal of Girijananda Chowdhury Institute of Pharmaceutical Science, told Northeast Now that no employee was involved in the incident and that the decision was taken by observers from Assam Agricultural University.
Ms Tamuli described the incident as “mental harassment” and said she planned to write to Assam’s state education minister Ranoj Pegu. The Independent tried to contact Mr Pegu, but calls and messages went unanswered.
The incident has led to an uproar on social media, with many users calling out what they said was blatant sexism.
“Heights of moral policing. Shameful,” wrote an Indian journalist on Twitter.
A 19-year-old woman appearing in an entrance exam in Assam's Tezpur was forced to wrap a curtain around her legs because she was wearing shorts.
Heights of moral policing. Shameful!https://t.co/oRywMAs8VS
— Abhishek Dey (@abhishekdey04) September 16, 2021
Digvijaya Singh, a leader of the main opposition party Indian National Congress, called it a regressive move.
In July, a teenage girl was beaten to death by male members of her extended family in the North Indian state of Uttar Pradesh for wearing jeans.