Published: 16th August 2019
TN School Education minister says caste bands not banned, traditional practices to continue
The usage of caste bands has been in practice for the last several years, especially in the northern districts of the State
School education minister KA Sengottaiyan said on Thursday that he had asked all education officials not to implement a recent circular issued by the department concerned warning severe action against schools making students wear wrist bands that identify their caste.
“Whatever practice exists in Tamil Nadu shall continue the way it is,” he told Express over the phone.
The usage of caste bands has been in practice for the last several years, especially in the northern districts of the State. Last year, a few physical education instructors and senior district-level officials were accused of discriminating against students, who wanted to participate in sports events, based on their caste.
The students were allegedly profiled based on the colour of the band they wore. There are also allegations about some schools prohibiting Dalit children from using common plates to eat the midday meals.
Sengottaiyan, however, said the circular was issued without his knowledge. He termed it as ‘unnecessary’ and said it was passed ‘just to spark a controversy’.
Interestingly, BJP leader H Raja was the first one to oppose the circular. “Preventing students from displaying their ‘religious’ symbols is an anti-Hindu move,” Raja had said on the caste band issue.
It was the Adi Dravidar and Tribal Welfare Department that first forwarded the circular to the School Education Department, the minister said.
"It was subsequently issued without my knowledge," said Sengottaiyan. The circular was issued on the basis of a representation lodged by 180 trainee IAS officers, who submitted that some schools in Tamil Nadu, made students to wear colour coded wrist bands.
These wristbands, which come in shades of red, yellow, green and saffron indicate whether they belong to a ‘lower caste’ or ‘upper caste’ in addition to this, rings and forehead tilak on the head were used as a caste marker. Sengottaiyan, however, denied that this practice exists and said that "no such thing happens in 99 percent of the State schools." It may happen very rarely, but I'm unaware of any such incident in Tamil Nadu, he asserted.