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'Colony' out, but what about high caste mind-set?

Colony out, but what about high caste mind-set?

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K Radhakrishnan, who was elected to the Lok Sabha as the only CPI(M) representative from Kerala, resigned from the Ministry of Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes and Backward classes yesterday after signing a landmark order. The order asks to stop calling the settlements of tribal, scheduled caste, and tribal community in the state by the names 'colony', óoru' or 'sanketam''and instead call them by names like Nagar, Unnati, Prakriti, or locally appropriate names. He openly stated that calling them colony connotes slavery and tends to create a sense of inferiority among the residents and indicated that such names contain a cultural problem created by a superior class. The Left explains that the reason behind this decision is the well-thought-out vision of the state government, which is to raise the social dignity of the grassroots classes and to further democratize the social mind-set.

The term colony, which was used in ancient Rome to refer to new settlements, has been used as a nickname for European imperial territories since the early modern period. Later, it evolved into the highly conceptualized political and academic term of colonization. Today, decolonization is the most important field of study in anti-colonial research. It take only an examination of the etymology, evolution, and meaning of the word 'colony' to be convinced that shaping mind-sets takes place in the choice and use of words. Language is, therefore, not only a cultural product but also a political product that is equally a force for dominance and freedom. In this realization, it was correct to discard the word 'colony', but the word 'Uru' should not have been added to the words that were to be deleted. Even if the government's intentions are genuine, the notion that 'many of the discursive language practices that construct public consciousness become a form of violence against individuals and marginalized and oppressed communities' is dawning as the term that a people organically called their habitats becomes attached to the shunned vocabulary of inferiority. For, It will naturally lead to the degradation of new generations in the societies that use it. Textual exercises without rooting out upper consciousness will not create any renaissance.

Malayalam is rich in idioms that express social hierarchies and celebrate the nobility of caste relations. The slurs used by Malayalis are extremely degrading and misogynistic. Only a society that constantly revises and critiques historically and culturally derived words and practices can transform language into an innovative tool to create equality and elevate different peoples to equality. In other words, the Minister's order and stance need to evolve into debates about the social and caste evolutions of language that determine, guide, and keep live public consciousness spur enquiries into how to democratize them. This order has the potential to rejuvenate democratic Kerala if it is possible to come to the realization that the violent practices contained in the language are due to the divisions in the psychological structures of the communities and give strength to dismantle them.

The 'colonized' life history of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in Kerala begins with the 'Pulayakolani' established at Chalakudy in 1920 during the time of Diwan Sir T Vijayaraghavacharya. Today, it has 'grown' with over 12000 Sankethams and colonies. It is well known that social prestige will not be enhanced simply by banning or renaming the term colony. While it is highly commendable that expressions and words that degrade human dignity are eliminated and restricted in official usage, honour is based on owning land and having a home where one can proudly invite friends. After the land reforms, pattaya melas, which started in 1970 and various housing projects, the question of why they have to stay landless in the sun and rain should be answered politically. Or else, after fifty years, the newly proposed words will have to be repealed with some fresh orders. It may be recalled that fifty years the word 'colony' was a word carrying prestige.

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TAGS:Editorialword colonyKerala scheduled castesSir T Vijayaraghavacharya
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