It is shocking that changing mores have passed them by in the era of information explosion.
Perhaps the punishment would be disproportionate if prominent film actors Salman Khan and Shilpa Shetty Kundra were to find their way to jail for having used a sharply pejorative expression — “bhangi” — on television. A local Mumbai political worker associated with dalit politics has demanded that they be prosecuted under the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
It is truly surprising that people in such prominent places as these film personalities remain untouched by some of the quiet revolutionary changes occurring on the social plane for the good in the country. Or, is it that they are completely ignorant? In either case, the two actors are fit candidates for social ridicule and censor. It is shocking that changing mores have passed them by in the era of information explosion.
Words like “bhangi” and “chamar” were not just occupational categories in traditional society, but carried with them deeply-held prejudices of the old order against people who did supposedly demeaning work. Since feudal times they have carried not just the idea of social inferiority and stigma but also untouchability. In many parts of the country, the use of such expressions can trigger a riot, besides being repulsive.
If Mr Khan and Ms Kundra used the deeply offensive word so casually, they clearly have not heard of the work of a man called Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. This is deplorable.