Dalit Camera: Past Achievements, Principles and an Appeal to Contribute
Ravi Chandran, Dalit Camera Team
One year ago, a Dalit (Arunthathiyar) woman Panchayat President was brutally attacked. She did a remarkable job in her Panchayat as a Panchayat President. This was the fourth Dalit Panchayat President who was attacked. She is the only one to survive. The entire Arunthathiyar movement was protesting. I also wanted to contribute to the protest, so I made a documentary [Check the link: Ms.Krishnaveni, Panchayat President, Victim of Caste system]. That was the beginning of what is today known as Dalit Camera.
One of the great Dalit leaders, Mr. Pasupathi Pandian, was brutally murdered in Tamil Nadu. Many Dalits leaders, irrespective of their sub-caste, remarked that Pasupathi Pandian was one among the very few who talked about equality for all. Despite such a widely shared opinion, there are no videos of that great leader to tell us his views (despite which however, I have to say, his contribution to Dalits in Tamil Nadu can never be erased from history). His brief life history can be read in the following link 'I am not a slave and don't make me a slave'- Annan Pasupathi Pandian, a tribute.
Dalit Camera: Through Un-Touchable Eyes
Hence, a question as well as an idea arose: why are such great persons' views and histories not recorded during their lifetime, but so vociferously remembered only when they are dead? Therefore, I thought it is important to record such people's views and histories. Prof. Kancha Ilaiah's short biography here was one such initiative. In AP at that juncture, various Ambedkar statues were desecrated and yet the responses from the Dalit movement were disappointingly few. Though at the beginning there were protests, later they died out. It was very, very sad that on the day of Ambedkar Jayanti, one of his statues was desecrated.
When Ambedkar statues were desecrated in AP, Dalit and Bahujan leaders were giving press statements which no mainstream media covered fully or extensively. At that point, I recorded an entire press conference and uploaded, to make up for the casteist myopia our mainstream media always exhibits in covering Dalit events. Since then, I have started to record and attend many press conferences organized by Dalits. It was at this time that Osmania University students were campaigning for the right to serve beef in public places. I took all of their interviews. Osmania University students, especially Sudarshan, introduced, and took me to various people on this issue. The rationale behind that campaign was the realization that the food policy enacted and practiced in India was one of the major areas to which we are not paying any attention.(Dr.Veena Shatrugna: Indian Scientist has offered nothing...)
Next came the Ambedkar cartoon controversy. While the entire left-liberal intelligentsia was snapping at the heels of the Dalit movement, I took a video of Dr. Satyanarayana on Ambedkar Cartoon which really contributed and changed the angle and presuppositions of the discussion. Then in Lakshmipeta, five Dalits were brutally murdered, and Karthik Navayan introduced me to a few activists. With their help, I went to the village and took interviews and covered various activities on the issue.
It was also at this time that Special Component Plan debate was going on in AP, and many Dalits were not aware of it (which included me too). Hence I decided to take videos explaining what SCP is. Likewise, I have taken videos illuminating other important topics also, such as the SC/ST Act, etc.
One of the very important issues which I wanted to bring to Dalit Camera was the Reservation policy, since in internet public spheres, like the video-sharing site youtube, one finds only anti-reservation arguments. In this growing cyber-dependent age, Dalits don't have much to learn from them. Hence I thought it is imperative to fill the gap. Also the issue of Caste and Indian judiciary was another important area that Dalit Camera covered.
We want to categorically stress that Dalit Camera has not contributed anything new to the Dalit movement. It just took the videos of activists on the ground and also took interviews of people. In that sense, Dalit camera does the work of a chronicler and that of a postman. In doing so, Dalit camera also learnt a lot from the activists. There are many activists among Dalits who are sold to the mainstream; they have also compromised with their agenda. However, there are many Dalit activists who are sincerely and tirelessly working on the issues. Dalit camera is indebted to them. It is due to their views and opinions recorded on video that people today are appreciating Dalit Camera. These activists are perpetually facing difficulty in mobilizing funds and people for their protests, and to add to their troubles, they don't get media attention too. Hence this camera focuses on them. Dalit camera doesn't deserve more attention than the movement.
Another very important lesson we have learnt is from the Dalit magazines. One of the Dalit magazines which are at par with the mainstream media in Tamil Nadu is Dalit Murasu. This magazine has contributed so many things to the Dalit movement in Tamil Nadu. However, this magazine is now under severe financial crisis. The magazine might shut down in the future if there are no people to support it. Like this, there are so many other Dalit magazines too. There are too many Dalit activists out there, bereft of any funding benefits, to allow Dalit Camera to feel self-important enough to ask for generous contributions for itself alone.
Problem With The Present Camera
The camera we use for Dalit camera is an entry-level still camera, where the audio and video cannot be adjusted. Many a time, the video which was taken with this camera becomes corrupt. The corruption of video files, and lack of good audio quality are some of the problems we constantly face. To achieve good sound quality with this camera, the interviews have to be taken outdoors without any background disturbance. Often, we don't get such a situation. Taking video after the sun goes down becomes a problem (especially because of poor lighting). Even if we take the video in a room with lights on then we experience the problem of unwanted echo. Some of the speakers are, obviously, only free at night. Hence, we thought it would be expedient for us to buy a camera with an external mike. The approximate budget for the video camera is Rs 45,000/- (Sony Handycam).
How Are We Mobilizing Money?
We have experienced a dilemma in how to mobilize money for the camera. With lessons learnt from Dalit activists, we have decided to collect sums which can be spared by anyone, of whatever economic means, working out there for the Dalit cause, for the camera, because the camera is for them. In its supplementary role of a postman, Dalit Camera needs only minimum contribution from all, since the movement needs a lot more support than the Dalit camera. We are asking for rupees one hundred only from each individual, and not more than that at any cost.
The other reason for fixing this financial policy is that the expenses will not stop here. Today we might be requiring a Handycam with external Mike, tomorrow we might need an external Hard Disk to store all the videos, and a website to make it user friendly. While taking videos we are also getting huge amount of material which might be useful for many people. Hence we are also planning to have a space on the internet to collect and collate all the pamphlets and booklets etc in a database. As a result we also require a website to keep track of the posting and updates. In future, we may also need to get a better internet connection. At present we have three Dalit cameras excluding the present one. Those three will be operating in different states, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and New Delhi. We have to wait and see what will happen in the future. Dalit Camera is still at an embryonic stage, and at this juncture, the committee is seriously considering the creation of a sustainable source to allow the Camera to survive, without becoming a burden on anyone.
Hence, we have decided to collect only Rs. 100 from each person. If anyone wants to give more than that s/he can contribute on behalf of others. Also we need money for this camera's sustenance, to keep it going. At the outset, we thought we will earn enough through the advertisements Youtube adds to the content. Sadly, Youtube is earning a lot and giving us a pittance, which seems to us to be a clear case of exploitation. Hence we thought it is not worth using advertisements in the videos.
Appeal to Contribute
Contributions to Dalit Camera can be given directly to the following people
1. Narayanan, EFL-U - 8790687317 (HYD)
2. Jentle, EFL-U - 9160630414 (HYD)
3. Baidurya, EFL-U - 9949354351 (HYD)
4. Reju, EFL-U - 8790611324 (HYD)
5. Priya Chandran, EFL-U
6. Sudarshan, Osmania University - 9908894355 (HYD)
7. Anoop Patel, JNU - 9999277878 (Delhi)
8. James Michael, EFLU - 9645968547 (at present in Kerala, and it's a Kerala number)
9. Shibi Peters, HCU -9492025386 (HYD)
Those who contribute are requested to give their email ids and mobile numbers for updates.
Contributions through banks
Bank Details for transfer-
Accountholder's Name: M.S.Narayanan,
A/C NO: 30660564155
IFSC code: SBIN0008786.