Govt Tells News Channels To Use "Scheduled Caste" Instead Of "Dalit", Activists Say This An Attempt To Erase Their Identity
In an advisory to the private television channels on August 7, the Ministry Of Information & Broadcasting has asked them to refrain from using the word “Dalit” and instead use the constitutional term “Scheduled Caste” to refer to the community. The I&B advisory came after a directive from the Bombay high court.
According to NDTV, in a letter to the news channels, it said that the media “may refrain from using the nomenclature Dalit in compliance with the Bombay High Court order”. Reportedly, the decision seems to have sparked some controversy among political leaders, activists as well as the heads of various news channels across India.
The term ‘Dalit’ translates to ‘crushed,’ ‘oppressed’, or ‘suppressed’ and was supposedly used first by Jyotirao Phule, the 19th Century social reformer and then popularised by BR Ambedkar as the term apropos to collectively describe the downtrodden lower castes in India.
Government advisory on the word “Dalit” drew criticism
The members of News Broadcasters Association (NBA), a body which represents private television news and current affairs broadcasters is likely to meet on September 20 where they may decide to take a legal recourse over the issue, reported Economic Times. Moreover, activists have expressed concerns stating that simply banning a word does not improve the status of the community in any way. Reportedly, members belonging to the community are worried that the ban can affect the way in which oppression faced by the Scheduled castes is reported by the news channels.
An NBA member, on conditions of anonymity, told the daily that it would be difficult to implement the ban as it is a socially acceptable term which has been used by academicians, politicians and activists alike.
Displeasure was also expressed by activists as Asha Kowtal, who is part of the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights told The Indian Express that the term signifies a “collective identity” and banning it would mean denying an identity to the people. She added, “We see this as part of the larger scheme of what the government is doing to the community, the anti-reservation discourse, the attempt to erase our identity little by little. We will file a PIL against the move in the Supreme Court if need be.”
Earlier in March 2018, the NDA government had asked all Central and State government departments to refrain from using the word “Dalit” for those who belong to the Scheduled Caste categories. According to Firstpost, the letter said, “All the state governments/UT administrations are requested that for all official transactions, matters, dealings, certificates etc, the constitutional term, ‘Scheduled Caste’ in English, and its appropriate translation in other national languages should alone be used for denoting the persons belonging to the Scheduled Castes notified in the Presidential Orders issued under Article 341 of the Constitution of India.”