PTI, CHENNAI: Colourful bands and tattoos may be fancy wearables and art forms for many, but for students in several government schools in Cuddalore district of Tamil Nadu, these symbolise their caste identities and deep-rooted prejudices.
Cuddalore in north Tamil Nadu is dominated by Most Backward Class Vanniyars, while Scheduled Castes, the second largest in number, account for nearly 30 per cent of the population, with the two communities being at odds with each other for long.
The tug of war between the two has been spilling over to schools in deep pockets of the district, where compound walls are painted with graffiti of outfits espousing their respective causes, with students seeking to assert their caste identities.
A red and blue wristband denotes the suppressed caste or leanings towards a regional Dalit-based political outfit, while a yellow-green one points to Vanniyars or support to a political party known to be backing the community, said a police officer.
Tattooing of a single star or a mango, symbols of the rival parties, are among other means used by students to exhibit their caste affiliations. Frequent conflicts erupt between students for reasons as
innocuous as tucking in shirts, boys talking to girl students, wearing pressed clothes and having a neat haircut, the officer working in the district told PTI on condition of anonymity. Inevitably, there is a backlash from the suppressed community.
"Caste conflicts are a regular affair in schools. Even some teachers have a bias and mete out unfair treatment to students of lower castes," the officer said.