No to “Harijan”: Dakshayani Velayudhan

[Proceedings of the Cochin Legislative Council, 11 August 1945, p. 642]

Dakshayani Velayudhan (1912-1978), the only dalit woman member of the Constituent Assembly of India, was born in Kochi. She distinguished herself early in life as the first dalit woman in Kerala to obtain a college degree, which she remembers, was won in the face of continuing caste discrimination in college and outside. She worked as a teacher after her education and also served in the Cochin Legislative Council during 1945-48, actively participating in the debates. At the age of 34, she became a member of the Indian Constituent Assembly.


Mrs Dakshayani Velayudhan (nominated): I move the following resolution standing in my name —

“This Council recommends to the Government that the name “Depressed Classes” may be eliminated and in its place the term “Scheduled Castes” may be inserted.

There are two reasons that prompted me to move this resolution. The first thing is that the term “Depressed Classes” sound an inferiority complex. It shows inequality and inferiority. Over and above that, the objection to using the words “Depressed Classes” is that it has got a bad psychological effect. That is the most important thing which prompted me to change the name. The Depressed Classes when they are often called that are always depressed — they always think that they are depressed and they always think they will always be depressed. It is to avoid this psychological effect that I recommend to change this name.

The second factor is that in British India the term “Scheduled Castes” is used to denote certain, particular communities which the Government has placed together for the convenience of giving them educational and other concessions. Our Sister State of Travancore also does not use the name “depressed”; but the word “backward”. That term “backward” also I do not want.

Mr P Govinda Menon (Ernakulam): Why not “Harijan”?

Mrs Dakshayani Velayudhan (nominated): With all my respect to the authors of the name, the name “Harijan” is like calling a dog “Napolean” or “Hitler” as long as untouchability remains. You know how far the name is correct. We do not want any other name. All over India the term “depressed classes” is not used but instead they use “Scheduled Castes”. For the sake of uniformity and as I said before to avoid that detrimental psychological effect, I recommend to this house to eliminate the term “Depressed Classes” and insert in its place “Scheduled Castes”. With these words I commend this resolution for the acceptance of the House.


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