In the 30 odd years I spent in mainstream print media – The National Herald and The Times of India – I can’t recall having come in contact with a Dalit journalist. But then I couldn’t make out from a name if the person is dalit. And dalits, on their part , do not wish to have their identity disclosed. Some, I understand, adopt a surname in a bid to conceal their caste identity.
Azez Ashraf, who, for a magazine piece, tried to get in touch with dalits who graduated in journalism from New Delhi’s Indian Institute of Mass Communication, writes: “A couple took my call but accused me of encroaching on their privacy, which I was and for which I apologised profusely; there were a few who promised to meet me, but subsequently refused to take the umpteen calls I made to them”.
Ashraf’s three-part article on dalits in the media, appearing in The Hoot, a media
professional journal, merits wider exposure, notably in the mainstream print media – both English and Vernacular. Extensive conversations that the author had with a score of Dalit journalists reveal their feeling of ‘discrimination against, and antagonism to Dalits’, notably, by other professional colleagues in the language press. Dalits don’t seem to have much of a presence in the English media.
As I said earlier, I hadn’t come across a dalit reporter or a sub-editor in my three decades in print media. I did, however, have a dalit colleague during my three-year stint in the Press Information Bureau (PIB). In PIB I also knew a dalit, my senior in rank, who had joined the government service (PIB) after having worked in private sector print media. Most newspapers those days (in 1950s and the 60s) paid journalists less than what they got in PIB.
In respect of dalits, however, there is a reason other than pay for their joining the govt. media agencies, in preference to private sector media, according to The Hoot article. Its author Azez put it, ‘ discrimination is a principal factor behind their (dalits) decision to leave the private sector media and opt for government jobs’.
A newspaper editor, in a comment on The Hoot article concedes that our media isn’t dalit-friendly. Mr A J Philip writes that he was advised by colleagues against his recruiting, for the Hindustan Times, Patna, a dalit post-graduate student from Patna University.