Tribune News Service
Patiala, August 30
“Calling a person ‘Harijan’ and ‘dhobi’ is offensive. It is basically used nowadays not to denote a caste but to intentionally insult and humiliate someone,” the Supreme court had said in a landmark order in 2017.
Violating the order and the Central government’s directions in this regard, many government schools in the home district of Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh have used the word ‘Harijan’ as a suffix or prefix in their names.
One such school is Government Elementary Smart School Harijan Basti, Bhore. Ironically, the school is located in a village falling in the constituency of Social Justice, Empowerment and Minorities Minister Sadhu Singh Dharamsot.
Residents of the area said there were two elementary schools in the village.
Gursewak Singh, a resident of Bhore village, said, “The area we live in is called Harijan Basti. The government should immediately remove this from the name of the school.” Similarly, a government school in Bhadson, block-1, also has the caste indicative word ‘Harijan Basti’ in the name.
Experts said there were hundreds of schools in the state which had been named after castes. “This is unfortunate and the government should take cognisance of this anomaly,” an expert said. In July, a teachers’ union had requested the Patiala Deputy Commissioner to rename schools that had names based on caste.
SR Ladhar, a retired IAS officer of Punjab, who fights for the rights of Scheduled Caste people, said, “The use of the word ‘Harijan’ is banned. This is unconstitutional. The government should immediately change the names.”
Amarjeet Singh, District Education Officer, said, “The name of the school is based on the names of the area. If the name of the area is Harijan Basti, the school will automatically be named after it. However, we are working on renaming them.”
Kirpa Shankar Saroj, Additional Chief Secretary, Social Justice, Empowerment and Minorities, said: “This is a serious issue. I will write to the Education Department to immediately rename these schools.”
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