The Congress has dubbed as "censorship" the Information and Broadcasting (I&B) ministry's recent circular which sought the media to refrain from using the term "Dalit" in their reportage.
The ministry's move also drew a sharp criticism from the Amnesty International India, which emphasised in a statement that the compliance of the ministry's circular by media will impede the Dalit rights movement from asserting itself against caste-based oppression.
"These are terms which are commonly used in the public discourse. And so, if the Government ordains or the I&B Ministry ordains that the language which you use in your reportage, should also be one that is pre-cleared by them. How else would you characterize this advisory except calling it censorship," former I&B minister and Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari told reporters on Monday.
His remarks came in response to a question asked during a press conference at the party headquarters.
"And my request to all those Media outlets who have been supporting the spectre of censorship, that they should introspect when you sow the wind, you reap the whirlwind," he added.
Progressive social groups adopted the term "Dalit" in the 1970s to assert their identity in their fight against caste-based oppression, Amnesty International India programmes director Asmita Basu noted, expressing concern over the ministry's directive to Indian media.
“The term 'Dalit' is much more than just a word, it is a shared identity that recognizes the historic discrimination faced by the community in India. The government has no business telling the media to not use the term 'Dalit'," he added.
The government should respect the right of Dalit groups to identify themselves in the manner they choose, he stressed.
The ministry issued the circular on August 7 after the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court, while hearing a public interest litigation seeking the removal of the word "Dalit" from all government documents and communication in June, asked the ministry to consider issuing a direction to media to stop using the word "Dalit".
The court took note of a central government circular issued earlier in March 2018 advising government officials against using the word.