Chennai: Tamil Nadu Education Minister K A Sengottaiyan on Friday said the government will not allow the practice of students wearing wristbands with various colours to depict their caste. It was an interesting U-turn, perhaps forced by the societal uproar reflected in the media, from his earlier stance that the wrist-band 'tradition' would continue.
Even as the AIADMK Cabinet appears to be either divided or confused on this coloured wristbands controversy, senior minister D Jayakumar said the government would come out with its decision after consultations. "There must not be differences among the students on the basis of caste. The government is working on it (decision)", he told reporters at Chennai.
BJP national secretary H Raja has said the government should not ban on the coloured wrisbands since they depicted religion and had nothing to do with castes. Tying of threads on the wrists and wearing tilaks on forehead only reflected the student's Hindu faith, he argued.
But social activist 'Evidence' Kathir has rightly pointed out that the students, particularly in the southern districts, have come to practice caste divisions even at early school stage by wearing coloured wristbands and different kinds of 'vibudhi-kumkumam' marks on the foreheads to identify their caste and 'organise' accordingly-whether it's a sport event in the school or other areas not so innocent. "This practice should be withdrawn", says Kathir.
What appears to be an 'age-old' practice allowed to permeate in the society by successive regimes of even the Dravidian parties that swore by Thanthai Periyar's ideology of caste-less living, saw a fresh trigger for new debate when the Director of School Education Department issued a circular which he claimed was inspired by the alarm sounded by a team of IAS trainee officers of 2018 batch during their visits to the districts. The circular sternly told the district education officers to identity the schools where such caste-system was still in vogue through the students proclaimed their castes by wearing wristbands and tilaks on forehead that were of the the 'appropriate' colours.
Stern action should be taken against the headmasters in such schools, said the circular.
It also said these wristbands, rings and tilaks are enforced by students themselves and supported by "influential caste leaders" in those areas and also teachers.
According to reports, while the Thevar students wear wristbands in yellow-red combination, Nadar students wear blue-yellow threads and Yadavs wear saffron coloured threads. The Dalit students wear green-red or green-black-white threads on the wrists.
As for the tilaks, the Thevar and Nadars wear their vibudhi-kumkum in different ways of expressing their caste pride.
The Dalit students do not wear such marks on the forehead. These marks tell the students who they should mingle with it and who should be kept away, said a report.
"Banning these in schools is a blatant anti-Hindu action. Does the School Education Director have the courage to ban the symbols of other religions? This circular must be withdrawn immediately", tweeted Raja, angrily demanding the withdrawal of the circular.
The Director of School Education must now be spending sleepless nights over this raging controversy stirred by his circular. Minister Sengottaiyan has said the circular was issued without his knowledge.