Tamil Nadu

Justice Chandru And His Controversial Suggestions For 'Social Justice' In Tamil Nadu Schools

S Rajesh

Jun 20, 2024, 07:35 PM | Updated 07:40 PM IST

Some of the recommendations of Justice Chandru have run into controversy
Some of the recommendations of Justice Chandru have run into controversy
  • Here's a look at six recommendations of the Justice K Chandru committee and the counter-arguments expressed by critics.
  • Justice K Chandru, a retired judge of the Madras High Court, is fairly well known in Tamil Nadu.

    He has been the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) government's man of choice to head various state-level committees, such as the one that recommended a ban on online rummy.

    As part of his latest assignment, Justice Chandru has submitted a report suggesting measures to prevent casteism in schools. However, the report has proved controversial due to some of its recommendations.

    The contentious ones include prohibition on the tilaka and coloured wristbands (because these could indicate caste), the appointment of an expert body to investigate allegations of 'saffronisation of education', and not posting officers from the dominant caste in an area.

    The one-man committee of Justice Chandru was formed after a gruesome incident: two children from a scheduled caste (SC) community were brutally attacked with sickles by a group of students from a dominant caste. The attack took place in Nanguneri, Tirunelveli district.

    Let's look more closely at some controversial suggestions made by the Justice Chandru committee:

    1) Prohibition of coloured wristbands, rings, or forehead marks (tilaka)

    After the Nanguneri incident, news reports said wristbands of certain colours are worn by members of dominant castes and certain other colours by Dalits. Therefore, the wristband colour can act as a mark of identification.

    However, critics say not every wristband is an indicator of a person's caste.

    Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) state president K Annamalai, while criticising this recommendation, said that very often threads of different colours are used in temple rituals, and these threads have nothing to do with caste.

    The reference to ‘tilaka’ especially has been poorly received as it is commonly worn by Hindus irrespective of caste. People often sport a tilaka on their foreheads on auspicious occasions.

    2) Dropping of caste appellations like “Kallar Reclamation” and “Adi Dravidar” from school names

    The report suggests that caste appellations should be removed from government schools and that private schools should also be asked to give up such names that identify them with a particular caste. 

    According to those who are against this move, the issue is that schools with such caste appellations were established by the government specifically for the welfare of certain backward sections of society.

    The removal of caste prefixes and their subsequent transfer to the school education department (as envisaged by the previous state budget), therefore, would reduce the benefits and resources available to students from such communities.

    3) Those from a dominant caste in an area should not be posted there

    The report says officers of the rank of district education officer, block education officer, and headmaster posted in an area should be from castes that are not dominant there. 

    This move could prove problematic because people would then not have the chance to serve closer to their hometowns or districts.

    For instance, someone from the Gounder community, which is dominant in western Tamil Nadu, would have no chance of, say, serving in Coimbatore. They would have to necessarily be posted in places far away, like Madurai or Cuddalore, where the presence of the community is smaller.

    4) Recording of attitudes towards SC/ST in annual confidential reports

    The problem with recording behaviour is that there is a potential for misuse of the provision to settle scores, similar to how false cases are filed under the SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

    5) Formation of a 'Social Justice Students Force' (SJSF)

    The formation of such a "force" under the state government, meant to inculcate values of inclusivity, equality, and non-discrimination, would be a duplication of national-level initiatives like the National Cadet Corps (NCC) and National Service Scheme (NSS), which hold similar values.

    Critics also fear that such a force could be used by the state government to push their own ideologies in the name of social justice.

    6) Appointment of a body to investigate allegations of 'saffronisation of education'

    Critics have questioned the emphasis on saffronisation of education and asked how 'Dravidianisation' of education in Tamil Nadu is not a problem.

    S Rajesh is Staff Writer at Swarajya.

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