The Gwalior bench of the high court has suggested that scheduled caste or scheduled tribe be used instead of Dalit.
The Madhya Pradesh high court has asked the state government and the Centre not to use the term Dalit in official communication, saying the word finds no mention in the Constitution.
In a directive issued on Monday, the Gwalior bench of the high court suggested scheduled caste or scheduled tribe be used instead.
“The state and central governments should refrain from using this nomenclature Dalit, as it doesn’t find any mention in the Constitution of India or statute,” the bench said.
Social activist Mohan Lal Mohar had filed a public interest litigation (PIL) in December against the use of the word Dalit in official as well as unofficial government communications, his lawyer Jitendra Kumar Sharma said on Tuesday.
“The word Dalit is derogatory and this term was coined by upper castes to insult the scheduled caste and scheduled tribe,” the PIL said.
“Even, father of Indian Constitution BR Ambedkar found the word Dalit inappropriate one. The government, NGOs, media and others are using the word Dalit without any reason. It hurts the sentiments of scheduled caste people,” Mohor said.
Formally referred to as the “scheduled castes” in the Constitution, the community is among India’s most disadvantaged. But many people from this community now publicly identify as “Dalit” (downtrodden or oppressed), a term first coined by Maharashtrian reformer Jyotiba Phule in the 19th century. The use of the term Dalit is seen as a political assertion of unity among the many castes that make up SC.
Around 18% of India’s 1.25 billion people are from scheduled castes. Over the years efforts have been made to improve their social and economic standing through various welfare programmes and affirmative action.
(With input from Mahesh Shivhare from Gwalior)