Blanket ban on use of word 'Dalit' in media not feasible, Press Council of India tells information and broadcasting ministry

How much damage can the word like 'Dalit" do? Apparently so much that in August, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting issued an advisory to all private satellite TV channels, urging them to refrain from using the nomenclature 'Dalit' for people belonging to Scheduled Castes in compliance with a Bombay High Court directive.

The Press Council of India (PCI), however, has decided against issuing a directive to the media prohibiting the use of the word "Dalit". The PCI, which regulates the media in India, said that it had an in-depth deliberation on the order of the Bombay High Court's Nagpur bench, and found that "a blanket ban was neither advisable nor feasible".

File image of members of Dalit community during a protest. Reuters

File image of members of Dalit community during a protest. Reuters

“Our reading of the Bombay High Court order is that it did not seek a ban on the word ‘Dalit’. We deliberated on the order and have come to the conclusion that it is advisable not to issue directions/orders prohibiting the use of word ‘Dalit’,” PCI chairman Justice CK Prasad said, according to The Hindu.

"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," he said, adding that the use of the term 'Dalit' has to be judged on a case by case basis.

"We cannot have general guidelines that in no circumstances, the expression 'Dalit' can be used," he added.

According to The New Indian Express, the PCI also provided a hypothetical example of regulating the usage of the word Dalit on a case to case basis. It said, "If the word is being used to harass a person, then the use of the word in reporting is fine; but if a person is involved in an accident and is then identified as a Dalit in a news report, it may not be appropriate."

As Firstpost had noted earlier, "The I&B ministry's advisory urging media to refrain from using the nomenclature 'Dalit' for people belonging to Scheduled Castes is seemingly benign at the surface. But at its roots is a rather longstanding aversion of those in power to let the word Dalit take root as a distinct identity of the millions of lower-caste Indians, oppressed through the centuries".

And before one jumps the gun of conclusions, it's important to not that the "ideological bent of the party or alliance doesn't matter" in the aversion to the word Dalit among those in power. In fact, both the Congress (in pre and post-independence India) and the BJP have constantly made efforts to come up with an alternative name to strip the narrative of the word Dalit. You can read the etymology of the word Dalit here.

In its advisory, the I&B advisory also cited a Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment circular of 15 March, advising the Central and state governments to use the term 'Scheduled Caste'.

With inputs from PTI

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Updated Date: Nov 16, 2018 12:51:54 IST

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