Skip to main content

Circular asking media not to use 'Dalit' will "harm" movement asserting against caste based oppression: Amnesty

Counterview Desk
A Government of India circular asking media not to use 'Dalit' but 'Scheduled Caste' has led to a major controversy across India. Amnesty International, one of the world's most well-known human rights organizations, has joined India's top Dalit activists who have protested against the GoI move. Gujarat's top Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani, for instance, said that the word 'Dalit' is "our political identity and we earned this identity after decades of struggle", giving credit to Dr BR Ambedkar with the credit to popularize the word.

Text of Amnesty's statement:

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting’s circular to television news channels to refrain from using the term ‘Dalit’ and use the term ‘Scheduled Caste’ instead, will impede the Dalit rights movement from asserting itself against caste-based oppression, Amnesty International India said today.
The circular which was issued to the News Broadcasters Association (a private association of different news television broadcasters in India) on August 7, advised that “media may refrain from using the nomenclature “Dalit” while referring to members belonging to Scheduled Caste in compliance with the directions of the Hon’ble Bombay High court and the Constitutional term ‘Scheduled Caste’ in English, and it’s appropriate translation in other national languages, should alone be used”.
“Progressive social groups adopted the term ‘Dalit’ in the 1970s to assert their identity in their fight against caste-based oppression. The term ‘Dalit’ is much more than just a word, it is a shared identity that recognizes the historic discrimination faced by the community in India. The government has no business telling the media to not use the term ‘Dalit’. Government should respect the right of Dalit groups to identify themselves in the manner they choose,” said Asmita Basu, Programmes Director, Amnesty International India.
Amnesty International India spoke to two private news channels who have confirmed that they have received the circular. It is unclear though whether newspapers and magazines have also received the circular. The Ministry so far has not specified whether the circular was binding and did not list any action if TV news channels do not comply.
Speaking to Amnesty International India, Paul Diwakar, General Secretary of National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR) said “If the media is gagged from upholding the values of fundamental rights, then this would affect the right to dignity and the right to life for those who are fighting against caste-based oppression. This will affect the identity of not only this generation but also for future generations”.
This is not the first time where the Central Government is insisting that the term ‘Dalit’ not be used. The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment on 15 March 2018, in a letter to the Chief Secretaries of state governments and Union Territories said, “…that the Central government/state government and its functionaries would refrain from using the nomenclature ‘Dalit’ for the members belonging to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes as the same does not find mentioned in the Constitution of India or any statute.”
In June 2018, the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court while hearing a public interest litigation seeking the removal of the word ‘Dalit’ from all government documents and communication asked the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to consider issuing a direction to media to stop using the word ‘Dalit’, following the March 2018 circular advising government officials against using the word.
Speaking to Amnesty International India, journalist and writer, Sudipto Mondal said, “The term ‘Dalit’ is a larger term of self-identification. Scheduled Caste is not descriptive. There are various interpretations of the term ‘Dalit’, it is growing in significance and is now including various other groups who are being oppressed. It is a useful prism to use where caste has not been explored properly. What I would want to know is who is the government to decide on this? The government is an appointed agency, what is their locus standi here?”

Comments

TRENDING

It's now official: Developed Gujarat's regular, casual workers earn less than 19 top states

By Rajiv Shah
Though not as low as state chief minister Vijay Rupani claims it to be (0.9%), Gujarat’s unemployment rate, at least as reflected in a recent report released by the Government of India, is 4.8%, lower than the national average, 6%. Yet, ironically, the same report, released soon after the Lok Sabha polls came to an end in May 2019, brings to light an even grimmer reality: Lower wages in "model" and "developed" Gujarat compared to virtually the whole of India, including the so-called Bimaru states.

Amaravati: World Bank refusing to share public grievances on Land Pooling Scheme

By Our Representative
A new report, prepared by the advocacy group Centre for Financial Accountability (CFA), New Delhi, has taken strong exception to the World Bank refusing to share its independent assessment of the Land Pooling Scheme (LPS), floated by the Andhra Pradesh government in order to build the new capital.

Beijing-based infrastructure bank 'funding' India's environmentally risky projects

By Our Representative
A new civil society note has questioned the operations of the Beijing-based Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), a multilateral development bank that aims to support the building of infrastructure in the Asia-Pacific region, seeking to fund projects in India through the Government of India’s National Infrastructure Investment Fund (NIIF), calling it “a risky venture”.

Why crib? 4.5% is far better than pre-1980 'Hindu rate of growth': Subramanian replies

By Rajiv Shah
Even as sticking to his original argument that India's gross domestic product (GDP) since 2011-12 has been overestimated by 2.5%, renowned economist Arvind Subramanian has said in a fresh paper that his estimate of post-2011-12 growth rate at around 4.5% is surely not "implausibly low", as some of his critics have been arguing following his controversial June paper.

British companies export 'deadly' asbestos to India, other countries from offshore offices

By Rajiv Shah
“The Sunday Times”, which forms part of the powerful British daily, “The Times”, has raised the alarm that though the “deadly” asbestos is banned in Britain, companies registered in United Kingdom, and operating from other countries, “are involved in shipping it to developing nations”, especially India. India, Brazil, Russia and China account for almost 80% of the asbestos consumed globally every year, it adds.

Govt of India 'lying': MGNREGA budget reduced by Rs 1,084 crore in 2019-20

Counterview Desk
NREGA Sangharsh Morcha, a well-known advocacy group for the rural jobs guarantee scheme, under implementation since 2005, has said that the statement by the Rural Development Minister has a made a mockery of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) on the floor of Parliament, revealing the ruling BJP’s “anti-worker and anti-poor bias”.

Include all workers exposed to silica dust in anti-TB programme: Govt of India told

Counterview Desk
In a letter, sponsored by well-known civil rights organization, Occupational & Environmental Health Network of India and signed by more than 60 professionals and activists*, Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, has been told that Indian policy makers shouldn't just acknowledge higher TB risk to mine and stone crusher workers, but also “other silica-exposed workers”.

UP's Sonbhadra killing of 10 tribals highlights 'failure' to implement Forest Rights Act

Counterview Desk On July 17, as many as 10 people, including three women, were killed and 28 injured when a village head and his supporters opened fire on a group of tribal farmers in Ubha village of Sonbhadra district in Uttar Pradesh. While the firing took place following a clash between over a land ownership dispute, it reportedly highlights failure of officials enforce Forest Rights Acts (FRA) and Survey Settlement in favour of tribals.

Universal healthcare? India lacks provisions to 'fight' non-communicable diseases

By Moin Qazi*
Universal health coverage (UHC) -- ensuring that all people receive proper and adequate health care without suffering financial hardship -- is an integral part of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. It enables countries to make the most of their strongest asset: human capital.

RSS, Hindu Mahasabha were 'subservient' to British masters: Nagpur varsity VC told

Counterview Desk
Well-known political scientist Shamsul Islam, associate professor (retired), University of Delhi, in an open letter to the vice-chancellor of the Rashtrasant Tukadoji Maharaj Nagpur University, Dr Siddharthavinayaka P Kane, has taken strong exception to the varsity decision to include RSS’ “role” in nation building in the syllabus of the BA (history) course, citing instances to say that the RSS ever since its birth in 1925 with its Hindutva allies like Hindu Mahasabha led by VD Savarkar worked overtime to “betray the glorious anti-colonial freedom struggle”.