Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Presumptive reasoning

This article titled ‘Missing from the Indian Newsroom’ published in the The Hindu yesterday is nothing less of moronic piece of senseless prattle. The article is written to establish ‘The media's failure to recruit Dalits is a betrayal of the constitutional guarantees of equality and fraternity’. To put it briefly the writer (1) argues that in 1992 he didn’t see any dalit in any of the media rooms and the situation is no different now. That Dalit absence is a calamity and its presence should be encouraged basically for three reasons, a) it’s a constitutional promise, b) varied coverage by dalits would mitigate the resentment of people who are ignored and discriminated against and c) I just could not figure it out. Please be my guest and tell me whats the third reason he is trying to convey. Anticipating the arguments 'Good journalists, regardless of caste, cover stories objectively' or 'Quotas and reservations are the bane of modern India — only ability counts,' he counter argues citing India’s nationalist experience when the national newspapers such as The Hindu, Amrita Bazar Patrika and Hindustan Times came in to being because Indians were not satisfactorily represented in The Statesman and the Times of India. Then he suggests that, I hope I have understood it correctly, newsrooms should fix targets to achieve equality of representation and that Dalits should have their own media to voice their opinion. And finally concludes that until there is diversity on television screens and printed pages, the promises of the Constitution will be unfulfilled, unthinking prejudice will persist and simmering resentment will grow. Media diversity is a matter of national self-interest as well as justice. I found the entire article basically faulty and completely unnecessary. 
I just don’t understand why the issue of representation of various sections in an institution like media should be raked up in the first place. If you really think, may be, it is needed to understand the undercurrent of Indian social politics then why leave out health, education, police etc. We should also know how many dalit doctors are there, how many dalit teachers are there etc. Journalists are journalists. Why should we talk about Brahmin journalist, Khatri journalist or a dalit journalist. It is odious. Already media has acquired political and religious colours. And now you want to add another shade. To what purpose, my dear friend, I would ask. 
Okay, now coming to his statement ‘The media's failure to recruit Dalits is a betrayal of the constitutional guarantees of equality and fraternity’. Where has the author established media’s failure in recruiting Dalits? Its not as if the media organisations have been asking candidates to state who they are and deliberately screening dalits and picking only the upper strata. If dalits are not there, they are not there (2). The problem may be on the supply side. Why put the burden of guilt on media. 
Now of the three reasons he has stated for arguing that dalit absence in media as a calamity I will talk about only two because as I told you earlier the third reason I just could not figure it out, its kind of lost in the maze of empty words. It is against the constitutional promise of equality and fraternity, says the writer. How, I am unable to understand. As I said earlier if the media rooms are deliberately avoiding dalit presence then its discriminatory and against Constitution. Constitution does not mandate everyone to ensure equality by ensuring equal presence of all sections. My understanding of right to equality is absence of discrimination based on caste, creed, religion, gender, sex. Hence, to say absence of dalits in media rooms is against constitutional rights, one has to establish first discrimination based on any one of those categories (3). The second reason he has given is that varied coverage by dalits would mitigate the resentment of people who are ignored and discriminated against. I really cannot help but laugh at this argument. Women in India are not a whole empowered lot. You think by watching all those women in media studios, the women out there struggling day in and day out, would feel less resentment against the society which does not give equal wages, good food etc? Well, I don’t think so. If you argue that the increased number of women in the studios can talk more freely about women issues, then we need a thorough study to establish a correlation. Because there is always a difference between ‘can’ and ‘will’ and final outcome. Then the writer talks about how today’s main national dailies came about. Yes, may be those great men with vision started newspapers because they were not satisfied with the state of affairs. The mistake the writer makes here is attributing lack of representation as a reason to start Indian newspapers, which I think is wrong. Representation was I think not the issue. It was the media space for the Indian cause relating to self governance. It would be nothing less of absolute lunacy to compare absence of dalits in media rooms today and absence of Indians in pre-independence era in the media rooms. His suggestions for increasing dalit representation are as faulty as his reasons provided for viewing the absence as a disaster. Even though there is nothing wrong in starting a media set up to voice its issues concerning a particular community and many have already done that. A journalist covers all issues with an open mind. If you argue that a dalit would give a better insight to problem related to dalits and hence he should be given adequate representation, you will be creating whole different set of order. It would not stop there. You will have to look at other sections starting with hindus, muslims, Christians, sexual minorities, physically challenged, visually challenged and also mentally challenged. Every man is an island. He feels the need that he should voice his opinion in the media. Hence the popularity of Citizen Journalism, me thinks! 
(1) Who is Prof Robin Jeffrey any way? He does not even have a wiki entry for his name. All google throws up is some not so relevant pages and images which includes a guy strumming on the guitar!
(2) I honestly cannot believe that there is not a single dalit or SC or ST in media. They are, for sure,there in the Government media such as Doordarshan and All India Radio. But in private media,there are several columnists starting with Dr.Kancha Illaiah who write about Dalit issues. At least in vernacular national media I think they have presence. Atleast in Kannada media I knew some journalists who did not belong to the upper strata of the society. I have seen so many north eastern faces on so many channels I suspect they do belong to Scheduled Tribe category.
(3) Probably it would be easier to establish absence of sexual minorities in main stream media and discrimination if at all its there. Yeah, am thinking of Philadelphia!

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