Justice K Chandru panel seeks ban on Caste markers in school; BJP TN chief Annamalai ‘objects’ to it

Annamalai claimed that implementing the suggestions proposed by Justice Chandru would exacerbate caste propagation within schools rather than mitigate it.

BySouth First Desk

Published Jun 19, 2024 | 11:03 PM Updated Jun 19, 2024 | 11:03 PM

Justice K Chandru panel seeks ban on Caste markers in school; BJP TN chief Annamalai ‘objects’ to it

Tamil Nadu BJP president K Annamalai has raised objections over the recommendations made by retired Madras High Court judge Justice K Chandru for school students.

Addressing a press conference in Chennai, Annamalai claimed that the suggestions reflect Justice Chandru’s ideological stance and that implementing them would exacerbate caste propagation within schools rather than mitigate it.

“We are very concerned with Justice Chandruji’s recommendations. After examining the report in detail, we found that many suggestions either reflect his ideological stance. If implemented, caste propagation in schools will only go high, it will not come down,” said Annamalai.

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Annamalai’s claims 

One specific recommendation under fire is Justice Chandru’s proposal to bring Kallar community reclamation schools and Adi Dravidar schools under the General Education Department.

Annamalai argued that these schools were established to address historical injustices and backwardness among specific communities, and merging them into the general education system would undermine this purpose.

“When it’s a privilege given to certain community, they will have their own schools. And they will have the first right in that school within the resources,” he said.

“Cutting expenditure at the cost of eliminating reservation doesn’t make sense,” he said, stressing the need for these communities to continue managing their own schools until backwardness is eradicated.

Annamalai also criticized Justice Chandru’s recommendation that headmasters should not be from the dominant community of the area. He argued that this would reintroduce caste considerations into administrative decisions, contradicting the principles of equality and reservation as outlined in the Indian Constitution.

“Everybody is same after they are selected. People might have come through reservation, or through multiple means, as per the constitution norms. Once you are selected, you are same in the eyes of law. Brining the concept of caste in their posting, doesn’t make any sense. I believe it is against the concept of reservation and the concept of Indian constitution as well,” he said.

Justice Chandru’s suggestion for students to sit in alphabetical order was another point of contention. Annamalai stated that teachers should have the autonomy to organize classrooms in a practical manner, rather than adhering to a rigid alphabetical seating arrangement.

He said that alphabetical methodology would only create more confusion.

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On ban on caste markers, promoting Dravidian ideology

Further criticism was directed at the recommendation to ban sacred threads and other symbols that might indicate caste. Annamalai argued that such generalizations trivialize the issue and infringe on individuals’ rights in a secular society.

“Wearing a particular colour thread doesn’t necessarily mean belonging to a particular community,” he said. “In a secular society, that too a secular school, every community should have the right not to get their sentiments hurt. That’s something we object” Annamalai said.

He also dismissed the proposal to form a Social Justice Student Force as impractical and potentially harmful, questioning the purpose and powers of such a group for young children.

“How will a 7- or 8-year-old-child process all this? All these are impractical decisions,” Annamalai said.

He also accused the Stalin government of promoting Dravidian ideology through the education system, which he claimed was evident in the content of Tamil Nadu textbooks. He criticized the textbooks for glorifying Dravidian leaders while neglecting other significant historical figures.

“Anybody reading the Tamil Nadu textbooks will know that it is glorification of Dravidian ideology and not saffronisation of education and that too, half of the things are wrong,” claimed Annamalai.

While the Dravidian ideologues have pages and pages written after them some of the greatest leaders don’t even have three lines, he claimed adding that it showed the mindset with which the textbooks have been prepared.

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‘Elections in schools biggest reason to propagate caste’

The most “atrocious” recommendation by the committee, according to Annamalai, was the introduction of elections in schools. He argued that this would lead to caste-based voting and deepen divisions among students.

“Elections in schools will be the single biggest reason to propagate caste,” he warned, citing examples of caste-based decisions in political appointments and elections.

Annamalai took a jibe at Chief Minister Stalin saying that he gives tickets and appoints ministers based on caste.

Annamalai urged the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister to consider these recommendations and their potential implications, emphasizing that the recommendations were far from practical and could create significant confusion if implemented.

Recommendations by Justice Chandru committee

The one-member committee headed by Justice K Chandru had submitted its report to Chief Minister Stalin on Tuesday, recommending a series of measures to curb caste-based discrimination in educational institutions.

The committee was constituted by the state government in August 2023 after an incident in Nanguneri, Tirunelveli district, where two school students from the Scheduled Caste community were assaulted by their schoolmates from an intermediate caste.

The report was presented to the chief minister at the Secretariat in Chennai in the presence of School Education Minister Anbil Mahesh Poyyamozhi, Chief Secretary Shiv Das Meena and others.

It prohibits students in schools from wearing coloured wristbands, rings, or forehead marks (tilaks) that may indicate their caste. It also recommended the removal of caste appellations in the names of schools.

Besides banning caste markers such as coloured wristbands, rings and tilaks, the report further recommended that seating arrangements in classrooms should be strictly based on alphabetical order.

The attendance registers of students must not contain any column or details relating to their caste. Teachers are also advised against referring to students by their caste or making derogatory remarks related to caste, it said.

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Expert body to probe allegations of saffronisation of education

The government should mandate the removal of any caste prefixes or suffixes associated with government schools. For existing private schools with caste appellations, the school education department should request their elimination, the report said.

It also proposed an expert body or agency be appointed to investigate allegations of saffronisation of education and activities that disrupt caste and communal harmony in educational institutions.

The report suggested that the government bring appropriate regulations prohibiting the use of school/college auditoriums, classrooms, playgrounds, or open spaces for activities such as mass drills, parades, or the propagation of communal or caste-related messages.

The committee recommended the periodic transfer of high school and higher secondary school staff to prevent the entrenchment of caste dynamics. Guidelines should be issued to ensure that officers from the cadre of CEOs, DEOs, BEOs, and Headmasters are not posted in areas where they belong to the dominant caste.

It also proposed that the aptitude and attitude of teachers towards social justice issues be assessed during recruitment. Additionally, compulsory orientation programs on social issues, caste discrimination, and offenses against SC/ST should be provided to all teaching and non-teaching staff.

As a long-term goal, the committee also suggested enacting legislation to enforce a policy of social inclusion and eradicate caste discrimination from schools to higher educational institutions.

(Edited by Shauqueen Mizaj)

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