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  • Members of the Dalit community shout slogans as they block a road during a protest in Mumbai, India, Jan. 3, 2018.

    Members of the Dalit community shout slogans as they block a road during a protest in Mumbai, India, Jan. 3, 2018. | Photo: Reuters

Published 4 September 2018

The Ministry said the media "may refrain from using the nomenclature Dalit in compliance with the Bombay High Court order."

The Information and Broadcasting Ministry of India has asked television channels not to use the term ´Dalit´. The word Dalit is attributed to the lowest caste in India. The notice from the ministry says that the channels shall use the constitutional term Scheduled Caste to denote the aforementioned community.

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The ministry, in a letter to private television channels on Aug. 7, said the media "may refrain from using the nomenclature Dalit in compliance with the Bombay High Court order".

A petition to the Madhya Pradesh High Court in January helped them reach this decision. Responding to that petition, the court said the term Dalit should not be used as it has not been mentioned in the Constitution of India.

Thereafter, the Ministry of Social Justice in March, referring to the court order, issued a circulation that all official communications will use only the term Scheduled Caste, or its translation. In June, the Bombay High Court picked up this order from the ministry with the suggestion that “suitable directions” be issued to the press and media outlets to this effect within six weeks.

This ban raised concerns among political leaders and activists who are saying that banning the word does not improve the status of the community. They are also worried that the ban might obstruct journalists reporting on the atrocities faced by the community members.

"Just because the word is not used does not mean the community is not oppressed ... the media should definitely continue using the word," said lawmaker Udit Raj.

Arvind Kumar from the Centre for Dalit and Minority Studies pointed out that it was "not just a word." "It (has) a whole semantics to it ... any word -- Black, Dalit, OBC, Shudra -- they all carry some meaning. It also connotes some identity".

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