School closed due to caste clash

A clash between students of two communities studying in a government school at Periyakulam in Theni district has resulted in the arrest of five Dalit students. Tension prevailed on the campus after two boys consumed poison and others protested demanding their release on Wednesday. On the advice of police and revenue authorities, the school has been closed for three days with a parent-teacher meeting slated for August 7, police sources said.

“Dalit and Caste Hindu students of the Victoria Memorial Government Boys Higher Secondary School have clashed on many occasions. We intervened and settled the issues amicably. They clashed again last week…cases have been registered on both sides,” Theni Superintendent of Police V. Balakrishnan told The Hindu on Thursday.

Five Dalit students were picked up by police a couple of days ago and produced in a local court. They were remanded to a Juvenile Home. The Revenue Divisional Officer has convened a parents-teachers meeting on Saturday.

“We want to organise a peace meeting. Our intention is not to punish the boys. If a compromise is arrived at, it can lead to withdrawal of cases. We are more concerned about the students' career and communal harmony in the school,” Mr. Balakrishnan said.

Evidence, a human rights organisation, claimed that police flouted the norms of Juvenile Justice Act while arresting the students. “While assuring teachers that they were taking the students just for an enquiry, police remanded them. Neither the parents nor the teachers were informed of the arrest within six hours which is required under the Juvenile Justice Act,” Evidence Executive Director A. Kadir said.

The students were not examined by a police official trained to handle juveniles, which was required by the Act. “The Director General of Police should order an enquiry and take action against the erring police personnel,” Mr. Kadir said.

However, Mr. Balakrishnan said there was no discrimination of any sort. There was no violation of the Juvenile Justice Act and Police did not resort to any violation, he said.

Police sources said that the condition of the students who consumed poison and were admitted to the Periyakulam Government Hospital was stable. Three of the arrested students were released on bail.

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