By G Saravanan
Published in The New Indian Express, Chennai, on August 31, 2010:
CHENNAI: In a startling revelation, a 13-month field study conducted by the Arunthathiyar Human Rights Forum (AHRF)-TN has revealed that children from the Arunthathiyar community are the most discriminated against in schools.
A study on ‘Exploring the discrimination and caste-based violence aimed at Arunthathiyar children in schools’ conducted by AHRF and released on Monday has vindicated the community’s claim of being discriminated against at every level. The study had begun in February 2009 and was completed in March this year.Coordinator of AHRF R Karuppusamy said,“with the help of volunteers from different areas, we conducted the study at 24 villages selected from five districts--Coimbatore, Erode, Ramanathapuram, Sivaganga and Tuticorin--and recorded testimonials of 666 Arunthathiyar students in the age group of 11-14 studying in government schools.”The focus of the study was to probe into the prevalence of discriminatory practices including caste-based discrimination and exclusion experienced by Arunthathiyar children in schools.The study has confirmed that Arunthathiyar children are being discriminated against most and forced to do scavenging activities in their schools.Out of the 666 interviewed, 606 were engaged or forced to clean bathrooms in their schools, noted Karuppusamy.These ‘activities’ include cleaning the toilets, school premises, vessels used for noon-meals and teacups used by teachers.The study also found that about 262 of them were being abused and discriminated against on the basis of their caste names while 148 were engaged to do the household chores of their teachers and 228 were being sexually harassed in schools.The study also suggested various remedial methods to alleviate the problem and to bring back confidence among Arunthathiyar children.It suggests establishing of a district-level legal advisory forum consisting of Arunthathiyars to bring to the notice of the government issues relating to violence against Arunthathiyar children, child labour or discrimination and caste-based violence.
We will be meeting Deputy Chief Minister M K Stalin in mid-September to hand over these recommendations, he added.