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wearing caste on the wrist--green for Dalits ,red for Thevars

wearing caste on the wrist--green for Dalits ,red for Thevars

Wearing caste on the wrist — green for Dalits, red for Thevars

 

Last month, a 12-year-old Dalit boy in Jodhpur was beaten up by his teacher for allegedly taking a plate from a stack meant for upper castes. The Indian Express visits schools across the country where lessons in caste differences start early.

IN the schools of Tirunelveli, about 650 km south of Chennai, caste comes in shades of red, yellow, green and saffron. It’s what students wear on their wrists, on their foreheads, around their necks, under their shirts. It’s who they are.

At the Government Higher Secondary School in Tirunelveli town, a Class X student extends his hand to display his green-and-red kayaru, a wrist band of interwoven threads. “The upper castes have yellow-red bands, so we have these,” he said.

In this belt in southern Tamil Nadu known for violent caste conflicts between OBCs and Dalits, these wrist bands are markers that tell children who is a friend, who isn’t. Though there are no written rules, students usually know their ‘colours’ by the time they reach high school.

It’s red and yellow for Thevars, blue and yellow for Nadars, saffron for Yadavs — all socially and politically powerful Hindu communities that come under the Most Backward Classes (MBC) category — while students of the Dalit community of Pallars wear wrist bands in green and red and the Arundhathiyars, also Dalits, wear green, black and white.In August, while investigating the increasing number of clashes between student groups, the district administration found that wrist bands were often used to target on the basis of caste. The district collector then asked the education department to ban wrist bands in schools in Tirunelveli. There was no written order, only a direction issued at a meeting of the education department. A headmaster, who was present at the meeting, said, “It was a verbal direction but a strong one,” he said.In August, while investigating the increasing number of clashes between student groups, the district administration found that wrist bands were often used to target on the basis of caste. The district collector then asked the education department to ban wrist bands in schools in Tirunelveli. There was no written order, only a direction issued at a meeting of the education department. A headmaster, who was present at the meeting, said, “It was a verbal direction but a strong one,” he said.