This post is a part of #JaatiNahiAdhikaar, a campaign by Youth Ki Awaaz with National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights & Safai Karamchari Andolan, to demand implementation of scholarships in higher education for SC/ST students, and to end the practice of manual scavenging. Click here to find out more.
This post is a part of JaatiNahiAdhikaar, a campaign by Youth Ki Awaaz with National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights & Safai Karamchari Andolan, to demand implementation of scholarships in higher education for SC/ST students, and to end the practice of manual scavenging. Click here to find out more.
The Indian media is going through a difficult phase today. It has been divided into two parts. One comprises of those who openly support the government and one which is against the government. A section of Indian society is lost in this resistance. Their problems never become a part of the national debate or there are much fewer debates. This section is the Dalit Bahujan and Adivasi people of India.
The national media hesitates to speak on casteism. And especially when there is a problem like manual scavenging, there is never any open and detail discussion.
We all know that there are very few reporters, journalists and editors in the mainstream who belong to the SC/ST community. NewsLaundry and Oxfam India did a research study to find out the representation of SC/STs in mainstream media.
The report states that 89% of leadership positions in English TV news channels belong to the general category, and 76% of anchors on the flagship shows belong to the same category. This is also one of the main reasons that Bahujans’ problems never reach the TV. It also has a direct effect on making government policies because, in a democracy, the media is called the fourth pillar. And this fourth pillar in India mostly consists of upper castes.
How can we expect responsible journalism from a media house which does not equally represent Indian society?
The death of a manual scavenger is never breaking news except for a few seconds, and even then covering common questions like “who is responsible for his death?” and the like. But the caste angle is hardly covered. Even the latest incident of Hathras rape incident was intentionally portrayed as a ‘women safety’ issue when it was brutal caste violence. Once again, the mainstream media failed the Dalits. Dalits get only media sympathy instead of accountability. They don’t want that. They want to get a chance to live a respectable life. They want the government to understand what it feels like to get into the gutter, how it feels when they get dirt on the head. But this mainstream media gives only 10 seconds of coverage to their death.
Dr Ambedkar once said, “ To give the news uncoloured by any motive, to present a certain view of public policy which it believes to be for the good of the community, to correct and chastise without fear all those, no matter how high, who have chosen a wrong or a barren path, is not regarded by journalism in India its first or foremost duty.”
Why does this happen all the time?
There are a few reasons for this hesitance. When the reporter belongs to the Dalit community which is hardly a possibility, he won’t get his story filed and when the reporter belongs to upper caste, he either doesn’t get into the deep story as he knows that his editor won’t accept it or he finds it uncomfortable to report about those perpetrators who belong to his clan.
Thus, there are very few detailed stories in the mainstream media which do an in-depth analysis of manual scavenging and its impact on the lives of Dalits. RSTV news has debated 3-4 times on manual scavenging and there is just one Hindi special report which finds mention of caste angle. But there is a twist here. In this documentary, the host never mentions the manual scavengers as Dalits but calls them as ‘ mail prathha se jude log’ (people associated with a dirty practice) and ‘samaaj ka ek varg’ (a section of the population).
Let us see another example. Last year, a lawsuit was filed by an employee in the USA court accusing his boss of casteism and it was not breaking news in our own country which is the birthplace of the caste system.
So, what is the solution to this problem? One way is for the non-Dalit journalists to come forward and raise their voice for the Dalits. Secondly, the editors of the main section should give opportunities to more and more tribal and Dalit journalists and they should be motivated. But what happens is often the opposite. Questions are raised against Dalit journalists, they are called casteists when they raise their voice in favour of Dalits. Ajaz Sharif and Sudipto Mandal have written many times about this subject.
I am sure all of us who consider ourselves to be millennials will come forward and show the true picture of the new India to the world. ‘The Shudra TV’ and ‘Dalit Camera’ are a part of this effort. It is expected that even more talented, caste sensitive journalists and editors will become part of the mainstream media in India.
Note: The author is part of the current batch of the Jaati Nahi, Adhikaar Writer’s Training Program. Head here to know more about the program and to apply for an upcoming batch!