14 May, 2021

Fly In The Face Of The Finest Print

Vigorous action can nullify the reasons that conspire to keep Dalits out of newsrooms

Photo by Narendra Bisht
Fly In The Face Of The Finest Print

In the ’50s, a foreign correspondent wrote to a renowned south Indian English daily, seeking comments on alleged discrimination against non-Brahmin journalists on its staff. Discrimination was out of the question, the paper clarified, as it never hired a non-Brahmin!  Over  60 years later, the media landscape has altered but the Indian newsroom is still the sanctuary of the elite caste Hindu male.

Having worked for the media in India and abroad, I have never known anyone applying affirmative action while recruiting jou­rnalists. Even BBC World Service, whose job advertisements pronounced an equal opportunity policy, never dissuaded editors from applying the principle of ‘merit’, mostly a euphemism for business-as-usual. The ritual occasionally favoured women, minorities and the disabled, but never worked for Dalits or tribals.

Paul Divakar, a Dalit rights campaigner, once asked me if I had ever consciously rec­ruited a Dalit journalist. We were talking on the sidelines of a mission to train video journalists selected from...

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