JUSTICE FOR DALIT JOURNALIST NAGARAJU KOPPULA CAMPAIGN
PRESS CLUB OF INDIA, New Delhi
New Delhi, Sept 5, Saturday: “The Government is bound to provide reservations for marginalized communities in Rajya Sabha TV, Lok Sabha TV and Doordarshan but the state of representation is minimal. There are layers and layers of caste discrimination and suppression practices that we must talk about,’ said Anil Chamadia of the Media Studies Group on Saturday at an event in memory of Dalit journalist Nagaraju Koppula, attended by hundreds of participants, many of whom expressed concern about the issue.
Paul Divakar, Convenor, National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights, held media responsible for not having minimum policies of non discrimination and principle of substantive equality. ‘Taking the instance of Nagaraju’s case, the policy framework should be looked at that which will strengthen democracy’, he said.
On April 12 this year, we lost possibly the only Madiga Dalit journalist in English print media, Nagaraju Koppula to lung cancer as much by the deadly disease as by the callous attitude of media employers and a casteist society. He was denied proper medical leave, health benefits and basic and compulsory rights like Provident Fund.
Journalists write about ills of the world but are unable to protect their own rights. Contractual system has made them even more vulnerable to exploitation. While journalists suffer, those from marginalised communities suffer the worst, as in this case, ending with death. Nagaraju belonged to one of the most marginalised and poor communities and he struggled hard to complete his studies and join The New Indian Express in Hyderabad where he quickly made a mark covering difficult subjects that often made it to the front page.
To perform the task of introspection within their own community, concerned journalists, citizens, lawyers and academicians came together to have a nuanced and lengthy discussion on the issue of casteism and discrimination in Indian media. Taking a cue from senior journalist Mr. BN Uniyal’s now famous futile search for a single Dalit journalist in media nearly two decades ago, the panel dwelt at length on why there was not a single Dalit or Adivasi in the 315 decision makers in media as reported by the survey conducted by Anil Chamadia of Media Studies Group, Yogendra Yadav and Jitendra Kumar.
Dilip Mandal who has been a journalist for few decades said that ‘Good journalists are of no use if they don’t speak up during incidents like Babri Masjid, Mandal agitation and caste census. As per a 2006 survey there are 8% upper caste males in the country but they constitute 71% of national media positions, making one wonder if it is a Hindu male upper caste press and not the Indian Press. This situation can change only with diversity in media.’
Satyendra Murli a journalist with Doordashan passionately spoke of double standards in the media. ‘If a Dalit journalist speaks about caste, he becomes casteist and the ones actually perpetuating this casteism actually become national journalists!’ He strongly urged journalists to stand together on issues of casteism and reservation.
Raul Sonpimple representing Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students’ Association JNU (BAPSA) felt that caste discrimination in the modern context needs to be understood with its fine print. Media is opportunistic when it operates on the basis of market dynamics reflected in the recent depiction of Ambedkar.
Paranjoy Guha-Thakurta who taught Nagaraju said that the lack of proper coverage of Dalit issues should be countered with alternative forms of dissemination of news through youtube and other media forms.
Bhasha Singh, author of Unseen India spoke evocatively and said ‘we have stopped challenging various forms of discrimination that take place in newsrooms to Dalits, Muslims and Women and particularly Dalit women who bear a double burden. Furthermore, contractualisaiton evades and defeats the binding aspect of applying reservations.
Organisers announced an annual award for Dalit and Adivasi journalists in memory of Nagaraju Koppula. A Charter of Demands was presented and endorsed by panel members and other participants.
Charter of Demands
· Ensure implementation of reservation policy in Government media houses and media channels of the Indian Parliament (Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha)
· Ensure employment to people from marginalised communities in private media houses
· Ensure affirmative action policies in media houses for journalists from marginalised communities for protection against casteism and discrimination.
· Formulate guidelines to constitute an institutional mechanism for addressing the grievances, cases of discrimination and exclusion of Journalists from marginalized communities
· Eliminate the contract system in Media and ensure permanent employment
· Implementation of the Supreme Court judgment dated Feb 07, 2014 (Writ Petition (Civil) NO. 246 OF 2011) on implementation of the recommendations of the Majithia Wage Board, 2011.
· End the differential treatment with respect to socio-economic security (Pay Parity, health benefits, Provident Fund, ESI, CL/EL/ML/PL )
· Urging employers to develop a non-discriminatory employment policy in order to ensure decent working conditions, security of jobs to all journalist special emphasis on marginalized section of society
· Constitute an institutional mechanism to address the issues of Journalists from marginalized communities
· Effective implementation of the recommendations of the Majithia Wage Board, 2011.
· Promote recruitment and employment of people from marginalized groups
· Initiate scholarship/fellowship to encourage young journalist from marginalized groups.
Ensuring justice to Nagaraju Koppula:
· SC commission and NHRC to intervene and take action in Nagaraju’s cases
· Ensure compensation to the family members of Nagaraju Koppula
· Ensure punitive actions against discriminatory practices by the employer of Nagaraju
· An appropriate action against the TB and Chest hospital, Hyderabad for misdiagnoses of his illness.
· A housing plot should be allocated in Mr. Nagaraju’s name, as part of the Journalists’ Housing scheme
Appeal to Civil Society Organizations:
· Make media organizations accountable to larger society for strengthening democracy
· Promote inclusiveness and diversity in media organizations
· Raise awareness regarding the callousness and discriminatory practices of media and other private organizations
· Demand for proper wages, appropriate mechanisms and non-discriminatory working-conditions for employees in the private sector