An email exchange within the News Broadcasters Association that has been widely shared on social media has members questioning the ‘untenable order’.
New Delhi: Private television news channels may move court against a recent government advisory against the use of the word ‘Dalit’, an email exchange among members of the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) suggests.
The NBA is a body representing private television news channels and current affairs broadcasters.
In the advisory, issued by the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (I&B) last month, media outlets were asked to refrain from using the term ‘Dalit’ and instead employ the constitutionally recognised ‘Scheduled Castes’.
I&B advisory for media. Compliance with HC order for refraining from using word 'Dalit' while referring to members belonging to Scheduled Castes. pic.twitter.com/gbEUqKBzyx
— Mumbai Press Club (@mumbaipressclub) September 3, 2018
Among the arguments raised in the NBA emails is the fact that the term ‘Dalit’ is not perceived as derogatory, and that it is “a factual caste like Rajput or Brahmin”.
The advisory, it was said, is “unimplementable… And must be challenged”. The exchange has been widely circulated across social media platforms.
The I&B advisory referred to a June order issued by the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court, which itself harked back to a March advisory of the Union Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry.
In the circular dated 15 March, the Social Justice Ministry had advised state and Central government officers to avoid using the term Dalit in official documents. Any member of the community should instead be referred to as “person belonging to Scheduled Castes”, it had added.
A man named Pankaj Meshram, who had moved the Bombay High Court in 2016 to seek the removal of the word Dalit from all government documents and communication, subsequently cited the order in court.
“As the central government has issued necessary directions to its officers, we find that it can also issue suitable directions… to respondent no. 2 (print media watchdog Press Council) and the media to refrain from using the same word,” the court ruled on 6 June.
In the exchange, members of the NBA have also sought to point out the “logistical issues” they are likely to face in implementing the advisory, such as their lack of control over what “panelists may say”, and the overhaul of all their archives.
“It is an untenable decision — to block the use of a term used by that community itself,” one of the emails states.
According to a report in The Indian Express, Dalit rights groups have opposed the I&B advisory as well, saying the term “holds political significance and a sense of identity”.
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