In Controversial U-Turn, TN Education Minister Says Colour-Coded Caste Bands to Continue in Schools
Education Minister KA Sengottaiyan disowned the circular that was issued by the department instructing officials to take actions against schools found culpable for this discriminatory practice.
Chennai: Days after reports emerged that Tamil Nadu Education Department was cracking down on schools where students were made to wear different-coloured wrist bands based on their caste, Education Minister KA Sengottaiyan said that no action will be taken in the matter.
“The tradition of students wearing coloured-wrist bands will continue. The circular was not brought to my notice and I was not aware of it,” Sengottaiyan said. Following this, in a statement to CNN-News18, Sengottaiyan decried the issue as a political controversy and said, " I have never seen such instances of class discrimination in my 2.5 years of serving as the education minister."
Senior BJP leader H Raja told CNN News 18 that he welcomes the AIADMK move. The leader had on Thursday tweeted that the circular was withdrawn by the ruling AIADMK.
“The circular even 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 said and demanded that the government officials behind the circular be punished.
He, however, remained reticent to acknowledge the case of caste-discrimination in the instance saying that religious discrimination should be addressed.
Directorate of School Education had issued a circular on July 31 directing senior officials from various districts to identify schools where students were being made to wear wrist bands to segregate them on the basis of caste. The Department had also asked for a report from all districts on what action has been taken in this regard.
“It is informed that the officer trainees of IAS 2018 batch lodged a representation to the Government where it has been stated that in some schools in Tamil Nadu, the students were made to wear colour-coded wrist bands,” the circular dated July 21 2019 stated.
The wristbands, which come in shades of red, yellow, green and saffron indicate whether the student belongs to the “lower class” or “upper class”. In addition to this, rings and forehead “tilaka” on the forehead also serve as caste markers.
“These practices are supposedly being used for sports team selection, reassembling during class and lunch intervals. Allegedly, these practices are enforced upon by students themselves and supported by influential caste persons and teachers,” the statement added.
The department had also said that ‘severe’ action will be taken against the schools where such discriminatory practices are taking place.
“All the Chief Educational officers are requested to take appropriate steps to identify such schools in their districts where such kind of discrimination is practiced and to issue suitable instructions to the Head Masters to prevent such practice immediately and also take severe action on the persons who are responsible for the discrimination.”
Social activist Evidence Kadhir said that similar cases were brought to light from Tirunelveli district back in 2017, but it took the state government two years to ‘wake up’. “It’s not just the coloured bands. In government schools where midday meals are provided, students from the oppressed community are asked to bring their own plates. This discriminatory practice is observed across schools and universities, especially in the southern parts of the state,” he said.
He added that in a village in Madurai district, students from the Dalit community can’t enroll their children to schools. “At least 65 FIRs are registered every year because of clashes between two students’ groups based on castes.”
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