The Press Council of India on Thursday ratified a decision against a blanket ban on the use of the word Dalit as such a restriction is “neither feasible nor advisable”, PTI reported. On August 7, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting had advised media publications to refrain from using the term and to use the constitutional term “Scheduled Caste” in English and appropriate translations in other languages instead.
The Centre’s advisory followed an directive by the Nagpur branch of the Bombay High Court in June which asked the government to consider advising the media to use the term “Scheduled Caste” as the Ministry of Social Justice and Welfare had already issued a circular in March on the same.
On March 15, the Union ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment wrote to all ministries, departments, states and Union territories asking them to avoid using the terms “Dalit” and “Harijan” when referring to members of Scheduled Caste communities. The letter said the words “Scheduled Caste” should be used in communiques to refer to people from these communities.
“It [the Council] opined that it is advisable not to issue direction/orders prohibiting the use of the word ‘Dalit’ in all circumstances,” the order said. “The order of the Bombay High Court was forwarded to us. The Council discussed that and has taken a decision that to prohibit the use of the word ‘Dalit’ in all circumstances will not be advisable. Maybe in a given case the use of the term ‘Dalit’ may be necessary, and therefore we have said absolute prohibition is not feasible, it is not advisable.”
CK Prasad, the council’s chairperson, said the usage of the term will be decided on a case-by-case basis. Prasad was addressing reporters on the eve of National Press Day.
The council’s chairperson also addressed queries about paid news and stressed that Press Council of India considers complaints in the matter a top priority. Prasad said the council’s members have been included on a panel set up by the Election Commission of India to monitor paid news ahead of the Assembly elections.
Soon after the advisory, activists claimed that the directive was part of the Centre’s attempts to restrict Dalit movements. The advisory followed the Bharat Bandh on April 2 called by Dalit groups to protest the alleged dilution of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, and the arrest of several human rights lawyers and activists since June in connection with Dalit-Maratha caste violence in Bhima Koregaon near Pune on January 1.