The Information and Broadcasting Ministry has told the media to “avoid from using the nomenclature Dalit” and, instead, use only the Constitutional term, ‘Scheduled Caste’.
On August 7, the I&B ministry wrote to the News Broadcasters Association and the Indian Broadcasting Foundation – bodies of TV channels – conveying a June 6 directive from the Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court asking the government to direct the media not to use the word “Dalit”.
Amit Katoch, ministry director letter said, “Media may refrain from using the nomenclature ‘Dalit’… and the constitutional term ‘Scheduled Caste’ in English and its appropriate translation in other national languages should alone be used.”
Both the associations are still ‘investigating’ the letter and have not given instructions to the TV channels. It is not clear whether the center will send a similar advisory to the print media.
In 1982, the Centre had asked the states not to use the word “Harijan”, which the Scheduled Castes found condescending or even outright offensive.
But Delhi University philosophy professor Kesav Kumar stressed that the Dalits had themselves coined the term “Dalit” to mark their “condemned” lifestyle and culture and to assert themselves against their oppressors. “Dalit” means “trampled-on” or “downtrodden”.
Kumar said, “People invent language to describe themselves. For most Dalits, the word is not objectionable. It means a celebration of the Dalit lifestyle. Some Brahminised Dalits may have problems (but) this is the language of liberation.”
Order from the court came after, a petitioner, citing the Gwalior Bench of the order of the Madhya Pradesh High Court, order banning governments from using “Dalit” since it “does not find mention in the Constitution of India or any statute”.