When the PT teacher of Kavindapadi Government Boys Higher Secondary School in Erode made his students remove the caste threads around their wrists on Monday, he did not expect protestors to gather outside his school later that day.
Members from the Hindu Munnani began protesting outside the school, demanding punishment against the teacher for making the boys remove the caste threads around their wrists.
Just this August, a circular issued by Director of School Education against the use of caste indicative wrist-bands by students in schools led to strong debates when the Minister for School Education, KA Sengottaiyan, denied the existence of such practises. The Minister later announced strict action against complaints received from schools that practised such caste based discrimination.
Speaking to TNM, an official from Kavindapadi police station says, “We detained 23 protestors from the venue, including 1 woman, for protesting outside the school. This group that had no connection to the school teachers or students was asking that the PT teacher be punished. They were released later that evening with a warning.”
Adding that classes were not disrupted on Monday, the policeman said, “The school is meant to be a place where students are not to be discriminated against based on their caste or religion. Such biases are harmful for youngsters and needs to be checked in the beginning. What the teacher did is only right.”
On August 2, the School Education Department issued a circular to all the District Education Officers directing them to take action against schools which permit students to wear caste markers like coloured threads, rings and tilaks on their foreheads.
These caste markers tend to encourage students to form groups and get into petty fights. While teachers had told TNM that the practice of wearing caste markers has come into sharp focus only over the last decade, anti-caste activist Kathir from the NGO Evidence said that it dates back to half a century ago.
"We can't point out the exact origin of this practice exactly but what we can infer is that it stems from the fact that every caste has its own flag, emblem, and common colour. For example, Vanniyars exceedingly use yellow, and Thevars red. Similarly they have different gods and icons for a caste and create symbols around this god," he had explained.