Where are the dalit journalists?

Where are the dalit journalists

Where are the dalit journalists?</headline>

Why is it that from a population of over 205 million Dalits, roughly equivalent to the combined population of France, UK, and Germany, there is not a single Dalit with a press card in the main stream media?

Some five years back, on November 16, 1996 to be precise, BN Uniyal published his "In Search Of a Dalit Journalist", in The Pioneer. Mr. Uniyal was confronted with a ¿strange¿ query from a foreign correspondent who wanted to meet a Dalit journalist. The foreign journalist wanted to seek the opinion of a Dalit journalist over the reported dispute between Kansi Ram and few journalists. Mr. Uniyal wanted to help his foreign counterpart, and thus begun his hunt for a Dalit journalist.

He spoke to a number of editors, media personalities, social activists, but could not find one. He wrote, "Suddenly I realized that in all the 30 years I had worked as a journalist, I had never met a fellow journalist who was a Dalit; no, not one. And worse still, was the thought that during all those years it had never occurred to me that there was something so seriously amiss in the profession, something which I should have noticed as a journalist. In all these years I have traveled almost every district of the country in the company of numerous journalists and met hundreds of others in different in different cities and towns and yet do not remember having met any Dalit journalist".

His queries at Delhi¿s Press Club too turned futile, and finally he examined the Accreditation Index, 1996, of the Press Information Bureau. The Index contained 686 journalists, in which, 454 bore their Caste surnames, but of those none was a Dalit. Of the remaining 232 names, Mr. Uniyal checked out 47 names at random basis, and none of them turned out to be a Dalit.

I myself have studied in JNU, know a lot many people in Delhi, but barring one Dalit who worked for Observer of Business & Politics [now closed] I am yet to meet a Dalit who is a journalist in Delhi. But I believe there could still be one or two Dalit journalists in Delhi, who may have camouflaged their identities for the sake of survival.

I still remember that memorable day when The Pioneer had carried Mr. Uniyal¿s piece, and expected a heated debate in media. But nothing of that sort happened. In January last year, when The Pioneer had given its eight-page Millennium supplement to us bring out a special Dalit Millennium supplement, we approached Mr. Uniyal to write a piece. He requested us to repeat his November 16 article with following note: " The article reproduced above first appeared in The Pioneer in November 1996, but was totally ignored by our journalistic establishment. No editor, columnist or commentator, no professional association like The Editors Guild and no public organization like Press Council took any notice of it. None felt aghast or alarmed at the situation described in the article.

It did not provoke a debate. No one felt there was a need for making special efforts to draw qualified Dalits into the media".

The Pioneer¿s Dalit Millenium Supplement, which contained Uniyal¿s November 1996 article with his note, was published on January 30, 2001, but till date no editor, columnist, or any other non-Dalit public organization has reflected upon Uniyal¿s quest. We, as a small group of Dalit activists, took upon ourselves to draft a memorandum, where we quoted extensively the American experience of affirmative actions in media, and posted a copy to each major media establishment in Delhi. But, barring The Pioneer, no one responded.

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