Thursday, December 17, 2009

[ZESTCaste] Dalit finds ‘Dalit’ untouchable, moves court to drop the term

Daily News & Analysis

Thursday, December 17, 2009 2:14:00 AM

Dalit finds 'Dalit' untouchable, moves court to drop the term

Deepak Gidwani / DNA

A social activist and former MLA wants the term Dalit dropped from all
government communication. Kaushal Kishore has filed a public interest
litigation in this regard in the Lucknow bench of Allahabad high

"The use of the word Dalit to describe Scheduled Castes (SCs) is
derogatory and demeaning. It doesn't find mention anywhere in the
Constitution," he says. Even the National Commission for Scheduled
Castes (NCSC) issued a circular last year disallowing use of 'Dalit'
in government communication, he said.

But his action has opened a Pandora's Box in a state ruled by a Dalit
chief minister, and where SCs hold a decisive vote (over 22%). "The
term Dalit is not interchangeable with SC," said advocate Hari Shankar
Jain, who argued the case in high court on Tuesday.
"The Constitution clearly defines SCs. Using 'Dalit' to refer to them
is a kind of abuse, it degrades them and indicates that they are
suppressed… it conveys a sense of untouchability." He said it violates
Article 17 of the Constitution, which prohibits untouchability, and
Article 21, which guarantees dignity.

However, noted Dalit activist and writer Chandrabhan Prasad differs.
"The term 'Dalit' is a progressive way of identitying SCs as defined
in the Constitution. It is an indicator of pride and assertiveness,"
he said. "Mayawati calls herself 'Dalit ki beti'… in the US,
African-Americans prefer to be called Blacks. It is an assertive
identity… 'black is beautiful' is a slogan they have coined
themselves," he said. "Perhaps, there is a section of people which is
hurt as it can't see Dalits asserting their own identity."

Sociologist and writer Gail Omvedt was quoted saying: "The term Dalit
is not in the Constitution but that does not make it unconstitutional.
It's a widely used word, which has acquired acceptability."

The HC has sent notices to the National Commission for Scheduled
Castes, and the central and state governments asking them to file
their stand. The case would be heard in the third week of January.


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