Even as the Kerala government is holding consultations with its various departments over the usage of the words ‘Dalit’ and ‘Harijan’ in its official communications, the Information and Public Relation Department of the state government has banned the usage of those words in its official communications.
Times of India reports that the order was issued based on the directive from Kerala State Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Chairman Justice PN Vijayakumar. The department has informed that government has also banned the word ‘Keezhalar’ referring to scheduled communities. It says that usage of this words would only help sustain social boycott of communities.
Vijayakumar told The Times of India that he considered the ban of words after requests from the community. “The state government had issued a circular in 2008 against use of the words. The use of such terms will only lead to social boycott. It will destroy the feeling of one nation,” he said.
However, the move was not welcomed by few Dalit activists. They have claimed that the ‘Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes’ were just administrative words. “The word ‘Dalit’ was being used by Dalits themselves to identify them as a political category. This word was made invalid and included in the category of words like ‘Harijan’ and ‘Girijan’ which were rejected by the Dalits themselves on political and ideological grounds. This cannot be taken lightly,” The Deccan Chronicle quotes Dalit activist and writer AS Ajith Kumar.
He also said that the ‘Scheduled Caste and Tribes’ were the words used by British in 1936 instead of the term ‘depressed classes’.
Another activist VB Ajay Kumar told ToI, “The term ‘Dalit’ stands independent of any religious connotation. It was used earlier by personalities like Mahatma Phule and later by Ambedkar. Dalit is never an offensive term for us. We are, in fact, proud of being addressed so. However, the term Harijan, coined by Gandhiji, was rejected by the Dalits.”