Systems will continue says the Minister in response to own circular prohibiting the practice: Education Minister’s U-turn on Casteist practice
The Tamil Nadu School Education Minister K.A. Sengottaiyan said that the recent circular by his department concerning the wrist band(s) which enforced caste discrimination among young students, was issued “without the knowledge of the department”. The minister was responding to questions from the media on the issue after he attended an Independence Day celebrations at an event in the state’s capital, Chennai.
He said the circular issued by the department to all Chief Educational Officers was not initiated by the department. He added, “The order from the Adi Dravidar (and Tribal) Welfare department was simply forwarded by our department.” He desisted from clarifying whether his statement meant that there will be no ban on wrist bands and added, “Whatever system remained in schools, will continue.”
A representation made by IAS 2018 officers in July had stated that some schools in Tamil Nadu, children are made to wear wrist bands in order to identify their castes. The wrist bands which come in the shades of red, yellow, green and saffron, indicated whether a child is from ‘upper caste’ or ‘lower caste’.The issue came up during a discussion in Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration in Mussoorie, as per the officers of IAS 2018 who made the representation.
Later, on July 31, a circular was issued by the director of school of education demanding “strict action”. The circular said, “In some schools in Tamil Nadu, students were made to wear colour-coded wrist bands. In the circular, the state school education department had asked its officers to identify and crack down on such schools.
It urged senior officials to take appropriate steps to identify such schools and asked them to “...issue suitable instructions to headmasters to prevent such a practice immediately and also take severe action against persons responsible for the discrimination”.
Strangely, the circular had noted that the students had enforced the practice upon themselves!
Interestingly, senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader H Raja welcomed the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK)’s move. On Thursday, he tweeted that the circular was withdrawn by the ruling AIADMK and said, “The circular bans a tilaka on the forehead. How can a government ban Hindu symbols? When you allow crosses to be worn and you don’t ban pardha, how can the government do this? Raja even went the extent of demanding punishment for the government officials behind the circular. He also avoided acknowledging caste discrimination in the instance. He had even called the move, ‘Anti-Hindu’.
Activists have explained how discrimination starts in these schools from the anganwadi (child care centres) onwards. “In anganwadis of some schools, non-Dalit children are allowed to bring separate vessels from home. Discrimination differs through the years of their education,” alleged a Madurai based activist ‘Evidence’ Kathir who works for the empowerment of Dalits. He said that the practice continues in various states.
Kathir also highlighted the issue of one school in Pollachi, Coimbatore in a Hindu report saying that some schools call Dalit students minus while Upper caste students as Plus.
Advocating an increase in the number of schools for children from Adi Dravidar community, Mr. Kathir said the Goal 4 of the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals is to ensure quality education before 2030.
“This doesn’t mean only infrastructure but a discrimination-free atmosphere for the children,” he added. These practices supposedly were being used for sports team selection, reassembling during class and lunch intervals.