State ban on ‘Dalit’: Leaders slam moveUpdated: Sep 20, 2019 00:33 IST
The state government’s decision to stop using the word ‘Dalit’ in official documents and communication has been opposed by a large number of Dalit leaders and activists. While some called it a “gimmick”, others warned of backlash over the move.
The social justice and special assistance department of the state issued a government resolution (GR) on Wednesday, announcing it will stop using the word ‘Dalit’ in all government circulars, notifications and dealings. Now all government correspondences will use Scheduled Caste and Nav Bouddha (followers of Dr Ambedkar who converted to Buddhism with him) instead, the GR stated.
The word, meaning the downtrodden, is generally used for socially-backward groups and there are different opinions about its usage.
Reacting to the move, Union Minister Ramdas Athawale said that while the word can be banned in official work, there should be no restriction on its usage in public life. He said the word ‘Dalit’ still holds relevance for the community. “It’s okay not to use [the word] in official documentation, but it should not be banned in media and other communications. Dalit word signifies the oppressive regime which we have faced for centuries and hence, we had formed the Dalit Panthers,” said Athawale.
Noted Dalit writer Laxman Mane said it was “just a gimmick” by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), who are “unaware” of the usage of the word. “The word Dalit denotes the person who is oppressed and instead of improving his situation, we are seeing [this] cosmetic approach,” said Mane.
Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) chief, Prakash Ambedkar, agreed with Mane, warning of a backlash over the decision. “You are trying to deny an identity to a section of people...this will provoke the community. The government should have evolved a consensus instead of resorting to such a unilateral move,” said Ambedkar.
The state’s GR was issued in accordance with a Bombay high court ruling on a writ petition seeking a ban on the use of the word.