Centre’s ‘advice’ to media not to use word ‘Dalit’ challenged in SC
The Centre’s ‘advice’ to the media against the use of the word ‘Dalit’ has been challenged in the Supreme Court which is likely to take it up after Diwali vacation.
The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting had on August 7 issued a circular ‘advising’ the media to refrain from using the word “Dalit” while referring to those belonging to Scheduled Castes. It had directed that the Constitutional term ‘Scheduled Caste’ in English, and its translation in other national languages should alone be used for all official transaction, matters, dealings, certificates etc. for denoting the persons belonging to the Scheduled Castes.
But the petition termed it an arbitrary, irrational, unreasonable, discriminatory decision which went against fundamental rights to equality (Article 14), non-discrimination (Article 15), various freedoms (Article 19) and life and liberty (Article 21) guaranteed under the Constitution.
The word ‘Dalit’ is a self-chosen name, a “positive self-identifier and as a political identity”, to describe the pan-Indian community of all those who have been affected by the caste system and the practice of untouchability for several centuries and thus deprived of social, economic, political and cultural rights, said the petition filed through advocate Advocate Sriram P.
The embracing of the word ‘Dalit’, by the community, with all its rich history and context, was also an explicit rejection of the identities imposed by Caste Hindus and outsiders upon Dalits, and the accompanying imposition of hegemonic caste structure upon them, the petition contended.
The ‘Dalit’ identity helped diverse communities of notified scheduled castes across India to unite under a common banner and associate, mobilize and gather consensus on the various common issues that need redress, it argued.
Asking private TV channels not to use the term ‘Dalit’ and thus ensuring its removal from public consciousness, created a chilling effect on the use of the term by individuals for their self-determination, identity formation, personal autonomy and self-expression, the petition contended.
The circular was issued following a June 6 order of the Bombay High Court on a PIL seeking direction to the Centre, state government and media houses restraining them from using the word ‘Dalit’ as it was derogatory against persons/communities so identified.
But the petition contended that the “Dalit” identity was a hard won identity chosen by the community for itself. The Community identified with the word ‘Dalit’, pride for the history of the Community’s past and ongoing struggle against the caste system and its various evils; with continued and relentless activism against oppression, discrimination and untouchability; and with the continued quest for full and equal citizenship as contemplated under the Constitution, it submitted.
Earlier, the said circular was challenged before the Delhi High Court by the National Dalit Movement for Justice’s (NDMJ) but the high court had said it needed to be challenged before the Supreme Court.
Source :The Tribune, Nov.6, 2018