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Journalistic ethics at Durban

by Chandrabhan Prasad

A t the Durban conference, I was greatly perturbed by the intellectual taste of the Indian media and the excessive dependence on secondary sources for news.Not one of them seemed to have confirmed with the WCAR Secretariat facts relating to Para-73, before pronouncing judgments on the "exclusion" of "Work & Descent" in the UN Charter.

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Woman power in Dalit movements

 

Chandra Bhan Prasad

(First published in The Pioneer in October 2001)

I do not wish to refer to Ms Mayawati, the pride of the Dalit movement today, who has single-handedly redefined the grammar of cowbelt politics. Yes, Kanshi Ram did "introduce" her but don't male politicians require mentors, too? I am talking about other women, the "new strengths" in modern-day Dalit movements.

 In this exercise I am not going to refer to Nidhi, Anjali Deshpandey, Prabha Jagannathan, Meenakshi Nath, Rama Lakshmi, Bela Malik, Bulbul, Tista Setalvad and over half a dozen more - all women with minds, inner rebellion, successful and who have played decisive roles in my life, sustained me in Delhi, both intellectually and emotionally. Neither do I wish to refer to Rinku Ghosh, in-charge of Agenda, The Pioneer, who is more worried than me about the regularity of Dalit Diary. Nor do I intend to elaborate upon the role acclaimed novelist Sagarika Ghosh has played in my life, or for that matter Nivedita Menon, whose robust insight and intellectual clarity could frighten any anti-Dalitist. Neither shall I discuss the legendary Gail Omvedt, the first intellectual to discuss Dalit Diary's concerns in any other daily newspaper, nor Ms Shubha Parmar, a Delhi University lecturer, whose intellectual charm draws all, irrespective of age. Here, I am concerned with the others.

To begin with, let us talk of Sevanti Ninan, an acclaimed columnist with The Hindu. About a week ago, she called me asking me to write for www.thehoot.org on the position of Dalits in media. Privileged as I felt, I wrote the article challenging Varna editors to explain why they had followed a policy of exclusion and why they didn't respond to Uniyal's path-breaking story, In Search of a Dalit Journalist.

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Chinna breaks the fellowship fortress

by Chandrabhan Prasad

It was the morning of January 30, 2000, and the place was Rashtrapati Bhawan. We, a group of Dalit writers and a host of non-Dalit intellectuals, along with the editor of The Pioneer, were walking out of Rashtrapati Bhawan after having presented the first copy of the Dalit Millennium, a 12-page supplement guest edited by Rajashekhar Vundru, to President KR Narayanan.

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All the myths about Kerala

 

Chandrabhan Prasad

Brahma Satyam, Jagat Mithya: This is one of the three slogans the Adi Guru Shankaracharya had offered while according "religious" cover to the Chaturvarna order in the early ninth century in India.  Shankaracharya was born in Malayali land and was an accomplished myth maker. According to him, "The world is not real, real is only Brahma." Then he went on to elaborate how things we see are only reflections of Brahma.

 When the elephant had disappeared, they commenced on their journey once again. While they walked, one of the disciples is said to have posed an uncomfortable question to the guru: "Sir, if everything is unreal, why did you run from the elephant?" Came the reply, " My dear disciple, like the elephant, the very act of me running away was also unreal!"

The great myth maker was born in today's Kerala and it could be only coincidence that Malayalam society is wrapped in several layers of myths still waiting to be decoded. One of the myths about Kerala is the egalitarian nature of its society. Modern day Kerala came into being in 1956 under the States Reorganisation Act when the princely states of Travancore, Cochin and Malabar merged into one. In the first Assembly elections, the communists, under the leadership of EMS Namboodripad came to power - the first time communists ever captured power through the democratic process. Since then, the communists and the Congress have ruled over the state for an equal number of years.

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Varnas only celebrate their intelligence

 

Chandra Bhan Prasad

A few years ago, a former foreign secretary had said, "Dalits don't fit into the Indian Civil Services' culture." What the retired (Varna) civil servant seemed to be saying was: a civil servant is meant to govern people and not serve them.  This seems to be the culture of the Varna order. But even then, some of them do defy Varna morality and serve the people: they distribute contraceptives, organise yoga classes for prisoners, turn into national heroes and walk away with a Magsasay. The Dalits, on the other hand, have served society for ages and even when they do get into the civil services, don't learn the culture of governing. They keep serving.

I know of stories about the commendable intelligence and concern shown by three Dalit IAS officers, who have even been able to use new age technology to their benefit. Training in formal knowledge has eluded Dalits since time immemorial. The systematic exclusion of the Dalits by the petrified Varna systems was more perfect than any computer programme. Computer programmes have bugs but the Varna system does not. The Varna system's juggernaut rolled on until Vasco da Gama's discovery of India.

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The Dalits lose their mirror & Ramdhan

by Chandrabhan Prasad

Despite having been close to becoming the first Dalit Chief Minister of UP, Ramdhanji has died an unsung death. On May 23, 2001, Dalits lost the mirror which most truthfully reflected the social contradictions of the "cow belt". Read More Ramdhanji supported Indira Gandhi to the hilt during the Congress' first split in 1969. The Rightist wing, led by Kamraj, SK Patil, Nijalingappa and Atulya Ghosh, was opposing Indira for her economic policies, which included the nationalisation of private banks. They had the ideological backing of Morarji Desai who, too, was opposed to the idea of nationalising private banks.

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