Tamil Nadu Committee Seeks Eradication of Caste-Based Symbols in Schools

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Justice Chandru’s report suggests extensive reforms to mitigate caste discrimination in the state’s education system

Mohammad Alamullah | Clarion India

NEW DELHI – A report by a committee led by retired High Court judge K Chandru has proposed substantial measures to eliminate caste-based discrimination in Tamil Nadu’s schools and colleges.

The report, submitted to the state government this week, includes recommendations to ban coloured wristbands and other caste-indicative symbols used by students, as well as the establishment of a Social Justice Students Force (SJSF).

Justice Chandru underscored the necessity of these reforms, stating, “The removal of caste names and symbols in schools is imperative to foster an environment of equality and reduce discrimination.”

One of the primary recommendations is to strip all caste-indicative words from school names, ensuring they are uniformly referred to as government schools. Additionally, the report suggests the elimination of any caste-related words or surnames from the names of government schools.

The committee also advocates for a reservation policy for Scheduled Caste (SC) students in science courses for Classes XI and XII, to promote educational inclusivity. Furthermore, the formation of the SJSF, composed of students from diverse communities, is proposed to address and combat social injustices actively.

To further support these initiatives, an expert body is recommended to investigate claims of saffronisation in educational content and activities that disrupt communal harmony.

“Teachers’ commitment to social justice must be assessed during recruitment,” Chandru noted. The report calls for a uniform code of conduct for teachers and staff in all state-run educational institutions. It emphasises that the Teacher Recruitment Board (TRB) should evaluate candidates’ attitudes towards social justice issues and mandates annual training on social issues, caste discrimination, and laws related to sexual violence, harassment, drugs, ragging, and crimes against Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

The report also addresses classroom conduct, recommending that student attendance registers should not include any caste-related information. Teachers are advised against making any direct or indirect references to a student’s caste, with violations warranting disciplinary action.

Students should be prohibited from wearing coloured wristbands, rings, or tilak, and from using bicycles or other items displaying caste-related sentiments. The committee suggests appointing a consultant for each block and creating the role of School Welfare Officer (SWO) in secondary schools with over 500 students. The SWO would monitor and address issues related to ragging, drug abuse, sexual harassment, and caste discrimination, filing complaints with the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (SCPCR) when necessary.

The formation of the committee was prompted by a violent incident in August 2023, where two Dalit children in Nanguneri were attacked by a group of minors. Chinnadurai, a top student, was targeted, and his sister was injured in her attempt to protect him.

The report follows earlier government efforts, including a November 15, 2023, submission by retired officials assessing homes under the JJE Act in Tamil Nadu, aimed at improving the efficiency and safeguarding of children’s rights.

Justice Chandru’s recommendations mark a significant stride towards creating a more inclusive and equitable educational environment in Tamil Nadu, setting a benchmark for addressing caste-based discrimination across the country.

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