For some strange reason, the demand for dropping caste names from schools and colleges was never intensely made in the past. In contrast, communal tensions had forced the government to rename districts and streets and transport corporations by dropping the names of caste leaders.
Thanthai Periyar Dravidar Kazhagam president K Ramakrishnan recalls that during the centenary celebrations of social reformist Periyar E V Ramasamy Naicker in 1979-80, the then Chief Minister M G Ramachandran (MGR) had ordered removal of caste names from the streets of Tamil Nadu.
“Earlier, streets were named after castes, which identified people living in a particular street. To avoid such kind of discrimination, MGR ordered the removal of caste names,” he points out. However, he rues that still many street names are identified by their original caste names, including some in Coimbatore.
In the late nineties, caste clashes were witnessed in the southern districts following the creation of a new transport corporation in the name of Veeran Sundaralingam, an 18th century warrior belonging to the Pallar community. This prompted the then Chief Minister M Karunanidhi to rename all transport corporations by dropping the names of leaders identified with caste outfits. Before that transport corporations were named after Ambedkar, Anna, MGR, Cheran, Cholan Pallavan, Pandian, Jeeva, Kattabomman and so on.
Along with this, the Government had also renamed all districts which were earlier called North Arcot Ambedkar district (now Vellore), Pasumpon Muthuramalinga Thevar district (Ramanathapuram), Periyar district (Erode), Kamarajar district (Virudhunagar) and so on. Ramakrishnan argues that caste names should also be dropped from private restaurants since people from all sections constitute their customer base.