This is an attempt to think about perspectives that have been affecting children and other oppressed sections of society. Sometimes we don’t care about the language that we use for others but it may hurt or demoralize them. I will deal with some popular words that most people use in their daily life. I hope it will make us rethink, rebuild, reconstruct traditional thoughts about the most unprivileged sections of society.
The most important thing that we must remember always is that we should use phrases and words very carefully as we do not know how it will psychologically impact somebody.
I would like to explore the ‘perspective from below’, as a framework, which can capture the experiences of the people. As we all know that nobody can describe any person’s condition much better than himself. We always have been using a perspective that comes from above, and often that doesn’t fit peoples’ lives and their struggles. For example, we call some children as ‘Street Children’ only because they don’t have a place to live and nobody is there to take care of them. There are some NGOs bearing this category which are working for these children. Is it alright to call them street children?
According to the child’s perspective, it is not fair to call them street children just because they don’t have a place to stay. This type of narration makes children feel stigmatized, and by using this directly we are discriminating against children. Instead of calling them street children we can simply call them children or we need to work hard to find a descriptive category referring to children that can motivate them, and not demoralize them. When we call some children as poor, what do we mean? What makes a child rich and poor? Who made them poor and who is responsible for their situation? It is the Government’s responsibility to ensure that every child gets into school without any discrimination on the basis of caste, class, gender, and creed. We should not categorize children as poor, as poverty is produced by society and children should not be made to carry that stigma.
If we say some people belong to ‘Low Caste’ then we are actually helping the people who want to maintain and continue this hierarchy in society, and by using the term ‘low caste’ we are accepting that there is high caste in society. We ourselves are making them superior in society.
There is lots of debate happening around the word ‘inclusive’. What are the parameters that define inclusivity? What kind of inclusiveness are we talking about? Is this equivalent to equality or something else? Everybody has a different view of it. Inclusivity is not merely related to inclusion in government schemes or bringing somebody to the periphery of society. Inclusivity must be defined when we bring deprived people to the center of the circle and give them equal rights as the others. Empower them so that they can achieve everything that any human being can achieve as a right.
In the above discussion of redefining traditionally used oppressive words and perspectives, we need to reconstruct everything according to the perspective from below that will give us more power to raise our voice in the oppressive society. For thousands of years, the voices of Dalit, Adivasi, women, and minorities have been suppressed by dominant groups of society. They have introduced everything according to their perspectives which was more convenient and beneficial to them. They never think about the oppressed sections of society. So, the time has come to smash everything that has been built by dominant groups and the need to introduce new perspectives to challenge the existing system that discriminates on the basis of caste, class, gender, creed etc. Perspectives from below give mental strength to those people who never get an opportunity to compete with others.
Neeraj Bunkar is currently doing MA Social Work in Dalit and Tribal Studies and Action, TISS Mumbai and has previously done BA (Hons) in Political Science from Kirorimal College, Delhi University New Delhi.