Are there enough Dalit Muslims in the media?


How many  of you  watch news on  TV ?   The audience was  asked  from  the dais   in an auditorium  on December 16. Not a single hand went up. This shows the huge loss of credibility of the television media.

 The occasion was a day long discussion on the media organised by  Indie Jounal and Pune Collective at S.M. Joshi foundation hall in Pune attended by a  large number of journalism students from various parts and media professionals.

  Similar is the case with  Hindi daily journalism. Urmilesh, a former executive  director of Rajya Sabha TV, said in his inaugural address that he reads six  Hindi dailies in the morning. It is frustrating, Not one of them  can be said to practise real journalism.

 He recalled the  great tradition of Indian journalism from the area of Dr Ambedkar, Nehru and Gandhi. Bhagat Singh, revolutionary, himself wrote  a number of articles for Pratap edited by  Ganesh Shanka Vidyarthi, a freedom fighter. Vidyarthi laid down his life while interventing in a communal riot in 1931 at the age of 41.

An unusual part of the conclave was that  most participants were from dalit, Adivasi or  Muslim, activist backgrounds and  there was also discussion on how they got inadequate  representation in the media or were marginalised in jobs.  The view regarding poor representation was contesed by  Jayadev Dole, author and former media professor.  Pointing out to Rajendra Sathe who sat in the audience, he said when Sathe  headed  Eenadu television channel  most  of the staff was from disadvantaged communities.

 There was also discussion on new media platforms like youtube and Instagram. Surya Dash talked about the use of youtube  for creating awareness about  the disastrous impact of mining companies  in Orissa on  adivasis and the environment.  There was a lot of  influence of    these  programmes  some time ago but then the mining companies  produced their own  youtube  content, overwhelming the content of resistance groups.  The name of Nira Radio of the  notorious Radia tapes  controversy was recalled in this connection.

 He said  his group is now  thinking of going back  to  simpler ways of reaching the people through pamphlets etc. It was also pointed out that many people should subscribe to  the  group’s channel and make it viable.

 Heena Khan and  Sameer Shaikh spoke about  their experience as Muslims in Marathi journalism along with Delhi based Mahtab Alam who writes in Hindi, Urdu and English.  Hina, author of aMarathi books on triple talaq and inter faith marriages, said good deeds done by Muslims were praised  with the implication suggesting that that they did this despite the community’s   `demonic`  character.

Mahtab Alam said  Muslim girls had done well in English language journalism, winning many awards. This point is not quite related but one is reminded of  an observation by Jawed Naqvi, Dawn correspondent in Delhi, made some years ago, that  Muslims  by  and large  did not write about  issues other  than affecting their  community. They need to.  Dalits need to take up  economic issues affecting the community, not just issues of case,  this was central to  Dr Ambedkar’s  thinking. In Mumbai  one finds hardly any protests over the redevelopment of   two large colonies of Dalits closely tied to the Ambedkarite  movement, Mata Ramabai Ambedkar Nagar in the  eastern suburb and BDD chawls in the heart of Mumbai where property prices are particularly high.

 Sudipto Mondal of News Minute  opposed the  presumption that all was  well with the south of the country as against the cow belt. There was as much anti dalit prejudice in Tamil Nadu as in  U.P., he said. He said lakhs  had gathered at Deeksha Bhoomi in Nagpur on  December 6 to pay  homage to Dr Ambedkar  but the media spotlight was diverted to  singer Shankar Mahadevan’s visit to   the RSS headquarters in the city.

 Abhijeet Kamble, editor of  Mahaashtra Times online edition, said elite dominance of the media  was universal  including in  the U.K., it was not confined to India.

 The  programme was conceptualised by  Ajit Abhyankar, CITU trade union leader, and journalists   Prajakta Joshi and Prathamesh Patil of  Indie Journal.

Vidyadhar Date is a senior journalist and author of a book seeking  democratisation of  transpot

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