Dr Udit Raj
The Information and Broadcasting Ministry has issued guidelines to the press advising not to use “Dalit” word to connote Schedule Castes. Several such controversies have become order of the day ever since judiciary has transgressed it’s jurisdiction. What was the need of judicial activism about it and it should have been left to legislatures and executives if at all there was such demands. A tiny number of Dalits sometime express that Dalit word should be avoided. For everything there is no absolute unanimity. The words connote the objects but in the context of caste it is not applicable, e.g. , even if most beautiful and decorative word is used for Dalits, the moment one utters this , the feeling of upfront person will be same as it was with old name. There was a time when the “Bhangi” word was despised and it was negated and new connotation “Valmiki” was coined. Now the moment one introduces himself as a “Valmiki” the same image is drawn in others mind as it used to be. In sociology parlance it is known as a process of “Sanskritization”. In place of “Chamaar” and “Chuhada” new terminology “Jatav” and “Valmiki” was adopted but the ground reality remain the same. There is competition among Dalits and OBCs to get sanskritized, but old identity remains intact. One can settle out of India but caste will migrate with him and it lasts till death . Indians migrated out are not free from caste feelings and recent studies , “Caste in the United States,” finds that caste discrimination is playing out in the United States as well . The survey, which is the first of its kind, was commissioned by Equality Labs, a South Asian American human rights startup, and includes the experiences of about 1200 people who volunteered their answers. The report on the survey’s results said that two-thirds of members of the lowest caste, called Dalits, said they have faced workplace discrimination due to their caste. Forty-one percent have experienced discrimination in education because of it. And a quarter of Dalits say they’ve faced physical assault — all in the United States.
In the constitution , the concept of Schedule Caste is used but in day to day life it is “Dalit” word which is in vogue. The word Schedule Castes connotes a bunch of castes and this phenomenon is known as a Dalit. Some hold the view that why should they themselves feel inferior? When Dalit word got started in the use there is no definite time and space. Of course, origin is always obscure. Whatever the name Dalits adopt the mindset of other will be the same. There was a time when Africans were called “Blacks “which was derogatory and humiliating but with the time and space, the consciousness arose and they themselves started celebrating it like “Black is Beautiful”. The sufferings of Dalits are old and acute as compared to Africans and yet awareness level of Dalit has not reached to that level as in the case of Blacks.
Supposing the use of the word “Dalit” is not allowed , their plights will remain the same rather it wil harm them. The word Dalit connotes symbol, anger, struggle and unity. There is a powerful Dalit literature and word is found in researches , policies and programs and all over . This word is not only used in politics but in writings and journalism and now it is a household name. Dalits are compensated by way of reservation in govts jobs and education etc..This concept has become a way of life and supposing its use is scrapped how can one communicate about any caste and we have long list of sub-castes which run in thousands. If any injustice is done to a particular caste of Dalit in Kerala, through news paper and news channel it will be difficult to communicate in Delhi or other states which caste he belongs because any sub-caste has a geographical limitation. By discarding the use of dalit word , the circumstances are not going to be different. Supposing a Brahmin (Shukla) is addressed with name like Bhangi or pasi , the same terminology “Bhangi “will become dignity and empowering.
Dalits and OBCs are caught in the whirlpool to get their names Sanskritized, but they must know that it will not help them .On the contrary, each caste should use it’s non-sanskritized name which will ensure confidence, unity and struggle. It is important that the people who openly use their caste like Paasi or dhobi and khatik , the upfront person of upper caste gets demoralised and starts looking hither and thither . Why the so called upper caste get shock with such introduction like Ahir, Gadaeria, Kumhaar? If said with confidence, it is open to experiment but only confident person has to do it . The use of Dalit word is not limited to India but has become global. There is no substitute of Dalit word. It’s our cultural heritage that we believe in goody goody , not in dissection. The boil in the body filled with the pus cannot be cured by applying the ointment but it needs surgery. Why and how have they been discriminated and exploited , it needs to be studied in the depth so that other than Dalits can know the cause for reservation and positive discrimination in their favour. If there is heart burning and jealousy in other sections of society by seeing the preference given to Dalits, it is also due to ignorance about their past sufferings. Word is not reality but fact . Dalits should follow the footsteps of Africans.
(The author is a member of Parliament)
Dr Udit Raj