'Caste Symbols' Ban Is A Smokescreen For Justice Chandru's Thinly Veiled Assault On Hindu Traditions

Aravindan Neelakandan

Jun 21, 2024, 02:37 PM | Updated 02:54 PM IST

Justice Chandru's recommendations are deeply troubling.
Justice Chandru's recommendations are deeply troubling.
  • Forehead marks, often misunderstood as caste indicators due to colonial mislabelling, actually represent symbols of Hindu Dharma.
  • Justice K Chandru (retired) has submitted an exhaustive report to the Tamil Nadu government to prevent violent caste clashes among students, particularly school students.

    The one-man committee's recommendation is to prohibit students from wearing coloured wristbands, rings, or forehead marks (tilak), claiming that these articles serve as caste identities. It has led to criticism.

    There are two issues with the suggestion:

    First, there are some wristbands or threads that signify caste identity. On social media, numerous videos exist that feature teenagers displaying their wrist threads, asserting their caste, and sometimes even using them to demean others.

    Second, there are wrist threads that are unrelated to caste but hold religious significance. These threads symbolise spiritual penance or religious vows and are worn by various Hindu sects in Tamil Nadu.

    The fundamental rights of Hindu students should never be trampled upon due to the incompetence of a Dravidianist government in discerning caste-marker wristbands from religion-based sacred threads.

    Forehead marks, often misunderstood as caste indicators due to colonial mislabelling, actually represent symbols of Hindu Dharma.

    The retired Madras High Court judge has mischievously mixed up two distinct issues.

    Chandru, known for his anti-Brahmin sentiments, made a casteist and misogynistic remark against the Union finance minister not long ago. Curiously, he now wears the cloak of social justice, masking his aversion to Dharma as a pursuit of justice. This is deeply troubling.

    In our educational landscape, institutions administered by non-Hindu religious authorities enjoy minority status and are government-aided. However, a disconcerting trend persists: an aversion to Hindu symbols in a significant number of these institutions.

    Periodic protests erupt when Hindu students' religious wristbands and the sacred tilak are forcibly removed. Tragically, the media often underreport incidents like these, such as the suicides of two girls, aged 12 and 14. The girls attended non-Hindu schools, and the authorities there had removed these religious symbols from them the day before.

    Undoubtedly, there are more unreported instances. The humiliation of Hindus and the tragic consequences resulting from actions taken against them have become normalised in the Dravidianist media model.

    A government genuinely committed to eradicating caste-based animosity would carefully examine the issue before considering the imposition of a blanket ban on sacred wrist threads. It would identify particular threads that are associated with caste identities.

    However, Justice Chandru, driven more by his biases against and disdain for Hindu Dharma than a genuine interest in social justice, seized this opportunity to take aim at Hindus.

    A genuine effort at eradicating caste-based animosities would also look at the way castes are stereotyped and abused in Tamil movies — how certain castes and even violence are glorified, for instance.

    Films, being a great influencer as they are readily available to students on their mobile phones, should be investigated for the role they play. For example, the 2012 film Sundarapandian rationalised honour killings. It glorified violence by a particular community against a Telugu-speaking minority community, and everyone knew the caste in question.

    The film is available on Sun NXT, a popular over-the-top online streaming service run by a company close to the first dynasty of Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK).

    In another instance, a popular comedy in which actor Parthiban's character tells comedy actor Vadivelu's character to move away from him after learning that the latter was a sanitary worker in the Gulf, openly with a perverse sense of humour, advocates untouchability.

    Such instances could be multiplied. However, Justice Chandru would not like to upset the industry that plays a major role in the Dravidianist model.

    In their response to the Dravidianist assault, Hindu organisations must exercise caution. First and foremost, they should disentangle caste from Dharma. The prevailing notion that caste equates to Dharma or serves as social capital has inadvertently harmed Hindu society in Tamil Nadu.

    Focusing solely on preserving caste hierarchy within their echo chambers blinds the Hindu movement to broader societal shifts and harms Hindu society.

    Hindus and Hindu organisations should urge the government to differentiate between religious wrist threads (which, incidentally, even Rahul ‘Gandhi’ wears) and caste threads.

    It is in the interest of, and in the spirit of, Sanatana Dharma to clearly and uncompromisingly disassociate caste from Dharma.

    Simultaneously, the ban on the tilak should be unequivocally condemned.

    Two years ago, a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) scholar from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) said a child prodigy who won a chess championship was wearing a "tilak a marker of Hindu religion and top caste," and asked whether tilak should be "banned in public spaces."

    This perplexing assertion, while not surprising, revealed both cultural illiteracy and latent animosity towards Hindu culture.

    Now Justice Chandru echoes a similar sentiment. He, too, seems to harbour disdain for Hindu traditions and presents that pathology as a pathway to social harmony.

    Had he engaged with the creators of Jai Bhim, a film purportedly based on an incident involving him, and urged them to remove the caste-suggestive calendar, his recommendations might have carried a semblance of genuineness. Instead, what we witness is prejudice and animosity masquerading as a means to achieve social harmony.

    In this complex landscape of cultural discourse, it becomes crucial to discern between genuine critique and thinly veiled hatred.

    Let us continue to engage thoughtfully, seeking understanding rather than perpetuating division.

    Unity beyond caste: To safeguard Hinduism, spiritual leaders must actively disentangle caste from Dharma and offer healing for the wounds caused by caste discrimination.

    Justice and harmony: True social harmony cannot be built on injustice. Rather than trampling the rights of Hindu students, let us seek paths that promote justice and understanding.

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