Mumbai: The grandsons of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, who was the architect of the Indian Constitution, are divided over the use of the word ‘Dalit’, which has been banned by the Information and Broadcasting (I&B) ministry. Advocate Prakash Ambedkar and president of Bharip Bahujan Mahasangh (BBM), is of the opinion people should be free to use the word in connection with socio-economic and political backwardness.
On the other hand, Anandraj Ambedkar, president of Republican Sena, says it should be banned, as it is an unconstitutional word and is discriminatory. Poet Sambhaji Bhagat, while backing the ministry’s decision, opined, “Dalit study centres located internationally will have to find an alternate word.” According to Suresh Mane, a constitutional expert, the word ‘Dalit’ is not present in the Constitution. “For the first time, the word was used in 1957 at the Dalit Sahitya Sammelan — a literature festival presided over by the poet Annabhau Sathe. Dr Babasahed Ambedkar was supposed to preside, but he could not make it. Hence, we can say that the word Dalit emerged from the literature movement. Later, it spread after the foundation of the organisation Dalit Panthers,” said Mane.
Mane further said, “Dalit is not a casteist word. It indicates the aggregation of the depressed classes. But later, it was used to differentiate between castes, which made it sound derogatory. Hence, a ban on using this word is welcome.” Prakash Ambedkar said, “Babasaheb had never used this word. But after his death, the word came into use in a different context. Sociologists use the word in the context of socio-economic aspects and I don’t think the word has any racist or casteist meaning. The courts should allow people to use the word. Banning it is wrong. There is no feeling of inferiority complex because of using the word. It is just a nomenclature to identify certain people.”
However, his brother Anandraj Ambedkar held, “The decision to ban the word is correct and we should follow the decision of the court. We have strong objection to this word as well as the word which was used by Mahatma Gandhi. Dr Babasaheb used the term ‘depressed classes’. I demand that nobody name the caste of any person in public, as it is insulting and interferes with his personal life.” He further said, the word connotes low status and causes the community to lose its confidence.
Bhimrao Ambedkar, another grandson of Dr Ambedkar and president of the Bharatiya Bauddha Mahasangh founded by Dr Ambedkar refused to comment on the issue. Shahir Sambhaji Bhagat said, “The word was used for the depressed and oppressed people from all communities, including scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and others.”