ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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‘Dalit’ Cannot be Reduced to ‘Scheduled Caste’

The term “Scheduled Caste” is at once protective, and morally coercive and socially corroding.

The recent advice by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) to the media to refrain from using the word “Dalit” by implication introduces a moral hierarchy in the use of words. Following the petition submitted by some Buddhists from Nagpur, the government argued that the word Dalit has to be avoided because it is morally offensive and humiliating and the term “Scheduled Caste” is preferable as it has been given constitutionally. 

However, the Constitution has no control on the use of this term on account of it being misused by those belonging to the upper castes and who feel that they face competition from the Scheduled Castes (SCs). This misuse of the term was evident in caste slurs that were levelled at some SC students in a medical college in Delhi. The upper-caste students who did not like the SCs making it to the college were accused of disfiguring the constitutional term, Scheduled Caste, by fracturing it into a crooked and, hence, derogatory term, “schaddu.” This deformation of the term by the upper castes is deployed as a weapon against the SCs to morally coerce and torment both the actual and potential beneficiaries of the category. Although the term Scheduled Caste is morally coercive, its beneficiaries, in fact, hoarders, take lead to protect it from falling into misuse by upper-caste free-riders by demanding for caste authentication through verification of caste certificates via government mechanisms. The term Scheduled Caste is also morally corroding. Codified into a certificate, the term no doubt works as a gate pass to the opportunity structures, but it also tends to corrode the social solidarity of the oppressed, leading to infighting among the SCs only to prove who among them is an authentic SC. 

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Updated On : 9th Oct, 2018

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