The BJP-led NDA government in Maharashtra has directed all its departments to use Scheduled caste or its appropriate translation instead of ‘Dalit’ in “all official transactions, matters, dealings and certificates. This comes a year after the Centre asked all states to stop using the word “Dalit” in any official communication.
A notification issued by the joint secretary of the social justice department D R Dingle read, “in keeping with directives issued by the Centre’s social justice ministry, the word ‘Dalit’ should be replaced with “Scheduled Caste or Anusuchit Jati (in Marathi)”.
Speaking to The Logical Indian, Advocate Vijayalaxmi Khopade, practising Bombay High Court Lawyer said: “The government’s move is a progressive one. I think it is the need of an hour. Dalits have been suppressed, oppressed and subjugated for years and yes the word establishes the oppression and the oppressor. The government has decided to come up with an alternative name for the word ‘Dalit’. Now it is the government’s responsibility that the alternative word should also encompass the oppression the same as ‘Dalits’.”
Speaking on as to why now she said, “Gandhiji gave the name Harijan, and the term Dalit came into being when the oppressed people were called by there caste. I think it is the need of the hour to change the nomenclature once again. The new word might ease the wounds inflicted on Dalits by society.”
“The word Dalit is not an official word, it means ‘a piece of broken pot ‘and is derogatory in nature. There is no mention of this word called ‘Dalit’ Even in the constitution,” Dr Chaitanya Pradeep, Professor at the Department of Business Studies and Social Sciences, Christ University told The Logical Indian.
“The National Commission for Scheduled Caste also asked the people to avoid its usage, however politically it is advantageous for upper caste people if it is banned in terms of not being seriously blamed for their atrocities against SCs,” Prof. Pradeep added.
Last year, the Madhya Pradesh and Bombay High Courts told the Central and State Governments to stop using the word ‘Dalit’ as it “does not find mention in the Constitution of India or any statute”. Later, the Centre communicated the same to other state governments.
The I&B Ministry in its advisory to the media last year had said asked the media to refrain from using the nomenclature “Dalit” while referring to members belonging to the Scheduled Caste in compliance with Bombay High Court. However, the Press Council of India had ruled that there cannot be a complete ban on the word ‘Dalit’ in the media.
However, Dalit groups have protested against the ban from last year, claiming that the word represents a sense of identity and is of political significance.
The Dalit groups said that the word, which refers to being ostracised in Marathi, is in no way demeaning, rather brings a sense of pride to the community. They highlighted the widespread use of the term ‘Dalit’ began with the spread of Dalit literature in Maharashtra in the 1960s and the rising of the militant Dalit Panthers outfit in the 1970s.