Section of teachers promote caste pride among students: Retired Justice Chandru

Issue extends beyond confines of educational settings, says former HC judge in his report
Justice K Chandru, Retired Judge, Madras High Court.
Justice K Chandru, Retired Judge, Madras High Court. (File Photo | Martin Louis, EPS)

CHENNAI: The full report of the one-man committee headed by retired judge K Chandru on the measures to be taken to free schools and colleges from caste differences, which was accessed by TNIE, revealed that numerous representations received by the committee from various quarters charged that a section of the teachers themselves are primarily responsible for encouraging casteist feelings among students.

A number of submissions received by the committee stated that in many places teachers acted in favour of their own communities. Some other representations pointed to teachers actively taking part as members of WhatsApp groups maintained by casteist cliques. Many of these submissions have been reproduced in the report.

Justice Chandru said the behaviour of teachers in promoting communal feelings among students and acting with a communal bias has been noted by several respondents to the committee, suggesting teachers be periodically transferred to support administrative efficiency and promote communal harmony.

One of the respondents alleged, “The higher officials, teachers and office staff in the Tiruchy education district have formed a WhatsApp group titled Singaraja, where they share their casteist activities.” Another respondent from Villupuram district complained that such teachers interacted with students, keeping in mind their castes.

Justice Chandru, quoting respondents, suggested that all instances of caste bias displayed by teachers should be met with severe punishment after appropriate disciplinary proceedings following established rules. One respondent stated that in many schools, it is the teachers who are sowing the seeds of casteism in the minds of students. In view of the same, the committee recommended that there must be a periodical transfer of teachers working in high and higher secondary schools within revenue districts.

Another respondent complained: “The teachers, and in many cases the administrators, of the educational institutions themselves are caste-oriented. If the heads, teachers and staff at various levels exhibit a casteist attitude, it naturally influences the students.”

Moreover, Justice Chandru noted in the report, “Upon my query, a retired government secretary said this on January 1, ‘Where a powerful district minister lobbies for posting a particular officer and the CMO/CM succumbs to the pressure, or the fact that the officer belongs to the dominant caste is hidden from the CM. I think the number of such violations is increasing. I think the time for leaving it to mere convention or practice is over.

There needs to be a formal G.O. barring the posting of an officer (IAS, IPS, State Revenue and Police services) to the district or region where their caste is dominant. Any exemption must require CM’s orders on file.’” He noted that a strong nexus quickly develops between such officers in power and the dominant community in the region.

Justice Chandru concluded his report by stating that the terms of reference issued to the committee are limited to providing suggestions to the government for developing guidelines to address caste differences in educational institutions, ‘however, the issue extends beyond the confines of educational settings and permeates society at large. A comprehensive approach that addresses these issues at the societal level is necessary to achieve a lasting solution and move towards a casteless society.’

Panel receives hundreds of identical replies from tirunelveli college

In his report, Justice K Chandru recorded an interesting aspect wherein a large section of students of a Nellai college were made to send identical responses to the committee headed by him. He said the committee received 1,340 such responses from students of the Government Arts and Science College, Tirunelveli. The college’s principal stage-managed an activity where female students wrote postcards in bulk to the committee.

Nearly all of them contained two lines, individually signed by the students. However, 700 of the 1,340 postcards contained one demand: to end caste-based reservations and to enact reservations based on economic criteria. The committee had received a total of 1,448 responses from college students. “While this committee is pleased to see students articulate their thoughts, it is unfortunate that this expression was orchestrated.

It is regrettable that young students were prompted to take a stand without being informed about the history of affirmative action in Tamil Nadu. If the principal of this college had her own views, she should have responded independently rather than having the students participate in an activity that lacked spontaneity,” Justice Chandru said in his report.

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