NEW DELHI: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued notice to Tamil Nadu government over reported use of different colours by school students to identify or indicate caste.
The Commission has taken suo motu cognisance of a media report that in schools of Tirunelveli district, caste comes in shades of red, yellow, green and saffron, said NHRC in a statement.
This is what the students wear on their wrists, foreheads, around their necks, under their shirts, indicating their caste. In this belt in southern Tamil Nadu, known for violent caste conflicts between OBCs and Dalits, these bands are markers that tell children who is a friend, who is not.
While these dominant communities use markers such as wrist bands to single out and subjugate Dalits, for the Dalits, these were ways of asserting themselves.
"The content of the press report, if true, raises a serious issue of human rights," observed the Commission while issuing notices to the Principal Secretary in Social Welfare Department and District Collector, Tirunelveli, calling for a factual report within two weeks.
According to the media report, the District administration, while investigating the increasing number of clashes between student groups, found that wrist bands were often used to target on the basis of caste.
The District Collector had, therefore, asked the Education Department to ban wrist bands in schools. There was no written order but only a direction issued during a meeting of the education department. However, there were also other caste markers as well.
Reportedly, a Dalit student of a school in Tirunelveli town said the 'pottu' (bindi or tilak) worn by students were also colour coded. Any deviation from the colour scheme may invite questioning by the other communities.
In November 2013, after a caste tension in Gopal Samudram village in Tirunelveli district, a separate branch of a school was set up for Dalits. But in June this year, the district administration refused to renew permission to 'Dalits only school' forcing most of the students to drop out.