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What’s in a name?: on the use of the term ‘Dalit’

A lot in some cases. We must recognise that ‘Dalit’ is an expression of self-empowerment
The advisory (सलाहकार)from the Union Information and Broadcasting Ministry to the media saying they “may” refrain from using the term ‘Dalit’ while referring(चर्चा करते हुए/जिक्र) to members of Scheduled Castes is unnecessary(अनावश्यक/बेकार)intrusive(दखल/हस्तक्षेप करने वाले) and issued with little application of the mind. On the face of it, this has been done in compliance(अनुमति/क़बूल) with a direction from the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court. But a reading of the court’s June 6 order shows it only wanted the Centre “to consider(विचार करना/ध्यान रखना) the question of issuing such direction to the media and take a suitable(उपयुक्त) decision upon it”. The court did not go into the merits (गुणदोष)of using the term(अवधि/शर्त). After it was brought to its notice that the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment(अधिकारिता) had issued a directive to use only the term ‘Scheduled Castes’ in all official matters, the court merely noted that since media institutions were not a party before it, the I&B Ministry could consider the question of issuing a similar direction to the media. The I&B Ministry’s advisory is confusing as it uses the words “for all official transactions, matters”, though the media’s references to the community are usually beyond official contexts. The advisory must be withdrawn as there is no reason to tell the media how to do their job, even if it is couched(जुड़ा हुआ ) in the form of gratuitous(मुफ्त/निष्कारण) advice.

Of course, the debate( बहस) over the appropriateness(उपयुक्तता/संगति) of using the term ‘Dalit’ to refer to members of the Scheduled Castes is far from new. A decade ago, the National Commission for Scheduled Castes disfavoured(उल्लंघन) the use of ‘Dalit’, which it felt(महसूस किया) was unconstitutional(असंवैधानिक). This is because belonging to a ‘Scheduled Caste’ is a legal status conferred(अर्पित/प्रदान) on members of castes named in a list notified by the President under Article 341 of the Constitution. Therefore, arguably, ‘Scheduled Caste’ is the appropriate(उपयुक्त) way to refer to this class of people in official communications(संचार-व्यवस्था/यातायातमार्ग) and documents. However, it is inexplicable(अकथनीय/अतुलनीय) to oppose(विरोध करना/विस्र्द्ध होना) the use of the term ‘Dalit’ in the media and in non-official contexts — a nomenclature chosen and used by the community itself. Doing so lends itself to the charge that there is an attempt(प्रयास) to deny the powerful and emotive(भावनात्मक) meaning of the word Dalit. The term has evolved(प्रस्तुत/विकसित) over a period of time and has come to symbolise(प्रतीक ) different things in different contexts(संदर्भों) — self-respect, assertion(दावा/अभिकथन), solidarity(एकजुटता ) and opposition(विपक्षी) to caste oppression(उत्पीड़न). In the past, Dalits were referred to as ‘untouchables’, but the official term during British rule was ‘depressed(निराश) classes’. Mahatma Gandhi sought to remove the stigma(कलंक/धब्बा) of ‘pollution’ by using the term ‘Harijans’, or ‘children of god’. In course of time, the community rejected this appellation as patronising(संरक्षण) and sanctimonious(पाखंडी/धर्माभिमानी). It was only some decades ago that they began to refer to themselves as Dalits. ‘Dalit’ literally means ‘downtrodden’ or ‘broken’, but it is a word pregnant with meaning, reflecting(दर्शाती/प्रतिबिंबित करना) the struggle of a community to reassert(साबित करना) its identity and lay claim to the rights that were denied(अस्वीकृत/वंचित) to them for centuries.



Important Vocabulary


1. Referring(चर्चा करते हुए/जिक्र) 
Synonyms: attributing, citing, hinting, implying, indicating

2. Compliance(अनुमति/क़बूल
Synonyms: conformity, consent, acquiescence, amenability, assent
Antonyms: difference, disagreement, refusal, disobedience, rebellion

3. Denied(अस्वीकृत/वंचित) 
Synonyms: ban, call on, contradict, oppose, rebuff
Antonyms: OK, accept, allow, approve, ratify

4. Oppression(उत्पीड़न).
Synonyms: abuse, brutality, coercion, cruelty, despotism
Antonyms: help, kindness, niceness, blessing, democracy

5. Sanctimonious(पाखंडी/धर्माभिमानी). 
Synonyms: hypocritical, insincere, pious, self-satisfied, smug
Antonyms: forthright, honest, open, sincere, unsure

6. Emotive(भावनात्मक)
Synonyms: affectional, affective, heartwarming, moving, stirring

7. Intrusive(दखल/हस्तक्षेप करने वाले)
Synonyms: invasive, nosy, forward, interfering, meddlesome

8. Gratuitous(मुफ्त/निष्कारण)
Synonyms: spontaneous, chargeless, complimentary, costless, for nothing
Antonyms: costly, deserved, expensive, needed, reasonable

Synonyms: advise, argue, brainstorm, consult, huddle
Antonyms: keep quiet, be quiet, refuse, dishonor

10. Inexplicable(अकथनीय/अतुलनीय)
Synonyms: baffling, incomprehensible, mysterious, mystifying, odd, peculiar
Antonyms: comprehensible, explainable, fathomable, intelligible, normal




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