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TN: Survey Finds Glaring Caste Practices in Schools, Urges Govt Intervention

Neelambaran A |
Several incidents have emerged in the recent years, including attack on dalit students, says the TNEUF survey.

The TNEUF survey found 15 schools using dalit students to clean toilets, denying dalits from cooking food for students, separate queue for dalit and non-dalit students.

A survey by the Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front (TNUEF) has identified concerning cruel practices of caste discrimination and oppression in schools. The victims include both students and teachers from socially backward Scheduled Caste (SC) communities. 

Around 250 volunteers of the TNUEF surveyed 664 students studying in 441 different schools in the state, including 321 government schools, 58 government-aided schools and 62 private schools, during the last three months. The organisation has warned about intrusion of the Hindutva and caste fanatics among the student community. 

The survey found incidents of caste clashes among students, 15 schools using dalit students to clean toilets, denying dalits from cooking food for students, separate queue for dalit and non-dalit students, students being seated based on caste, and caste discrimination among teachers, 

Other direct and indirect caste oppression, such as denial of accommodation in hostels for dalit students, teachers enquiring the caste of students, disproportionately severe punishment for erring dalit students, barring dalit students from participating in arts festivals, among others. 

The TNUEF has urged the government of Tamil Nadu to publish a guideline to ensure equality among students, ensure social justice in educational institutions, establish counselling centres at local levels to support the victims besides ensuring the availability of basic infrastructure to prevent such atrocities.


In these schools, several incidents have emerged in the recent years, including attack on students from the dalit community for trivial reasons like touching members of dominant caste members, speaking to girls of other communities, sporting coloured tags in hands representing different castes and others. 

The survey found 15 schools, including four from Ramanathapuram, and two each from Salem and Cuddalore and one each from Thoothukudi, Sivagangai, Virudhunagar, Mayiladuthurai, Chennai, Tirunelveli and Coimbatore districts, where they deployed students for cleaning toilets. 

Six schools, three from Cuddalore, two from Chengalpattu, and 1 from Salem districts are found to be implementig separate queues for students for taking meals, while students are found to be seated based on their castes in ten schools. 

The surveyed students from two schools in Erode, accepted practising caste discrimination on the advice of their parents. Caste tussles among students were reported to 25 school administrations, with Ramanathapuram accounting for six such incidents. 

Teachers from five schools (three from Cuddalore district) were found to be discriminating agaist students based on their caste. Moreover, three schools, two from Tiruvannamalai and one from Chennai are found to be practising caste discrimination among teachers. 

A school in the urban area of Madurai district refrained from advertising the achievers in the higher secondary examinations since the top two students were dalits. The dalit students are provided additional punishments for offences in three schools and three schools has incidents of shouting communal slurs against dalit students. 


Another explicit case of caste identity comes in the form of students wearing coloured arm bands representing their caste. The survey found out students from 33 surveyed schools were wearing such caste-based arm bands. The birthday and death anniversary celebrations of leaders from specific caste backgrounds are also prevalent among the students. 

Students from four schools placed banners with caste identity during temple festivals and students from 38 schools boast of caste pride, the survey found.

The previous All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) government issued an order banning the students from sporting colour arm bands to prevent caste discrimination. However, the order was later retracted owing to pressure from right wing groups. Different Sangh Parivar-affiliated organisations accused the government of hurting the religious sentiments of the people. 

The TNUEF has suggested the state government and department of school education to immediately address the lack of basic infrastructure facilities, including ensuring libraries, toilets and drinking water. 

“The lack of such facilities paves way for the students to engage in unwanted activities. The department must ensure the availability of libraries and adequate time to use the library besides carrying out a campaign to bring an end to such caste based discriminations in schools”, the survey report suggested. 

The survey found some positive developments in schools, including the intervention of teachers in bringing an end to caste discrimination among students. 

The TNUEF has urged the government to remove caste identities in the school attendance register, make application of scholarship take place only in administrative offices, create awareness among students, teachers and administrative staff on treating everyone equally and prevent students from engaging in caste-based festivals. 

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