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'Not an Insult': Minister Athawale Disagrees With Centre's Advisory Against Using the Word 'Dalit'

Union Social Justice Minister Ramdas Athawale recalls the Dalit Panthers movement and says the word ‘Dalit’ doesn’t represent just Schedule Castes, but includes all people who are oppressed.

Eram Agha | News18.comEramAgha

Updated:September 4, 2018, 12:13 PM IST
'Not an Insult': Minister Athawale Disagrees With Centre's Advisory Against Using the Word 'Dalit'
File photo of Union minister Ramdas Athawale.

New Delhi: Union Social Justice Minister Ramdas Athawale disagrees with government advisory seeking news channels to "refrain from using the nomenclature Dalit” in their broadcast.

“We started the Dalit Panthers movement and the word we used was ‘Dalit’. It is not just about the Schedule Castes. Dalit also includes people who are oppressed — socially, economically backward,” Athawale, who is also the president of Republican Party of India (A), told News18.

The Information and Broadcasting Ministry in its advisory cites a directive by the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court issued earlier this year. “The High Court says this is wrong and we are not supporting the decision of the court. ‘Dalit’ word has identity, it is not a word of apmaan, or insult,” Athawale added.

Dalit Panthers is a radical social organisation that fought against caste discrimination. It was founded by Namdeo Dhasal and JV Pawar on May 29, 1972 in Maharashtra. The Dalit Panthers were inspired by the Black Panther Party, a socialist movement combating racial discrimination against African-Americans in the United States.

Another BJP leader and a known Dalit voice, Udit Raj feels ‘Dalit’ is a word with a much wider socio-political connotation. He says that the etymology comes with history and identity it should not be played with. “In common usage, we use the word ‘Dalit’ and it should be left as it is. The term reminds Dalits about their positions, and inspires them to fight for,” he said.

The entire debate on the issue was triggered by a High Court order in Madhya Pradesh earlier this year about the use of the word ‘Schedule Caste’ in the Constitution instead of ‘Dalits’.

The Union Social Justice Ministry taking cognisance of the order had issued a circular in March this year advising the use of ‘Schedule Caste’ in all government communication.

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| Edited by: Nitya Thirumalai
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