When media colludes with the State

Narratives are created and meanings subverted, represented, coined, symbolized and disseminated all in assistance of power. Now it becomes a natural rationale to question where lays such power and in whose hands does it function and rest; and for what purpose? It becomes essential to learn when cultures are so diverse and there exist no homogenized idea of a nation how the State responds and interacts with that power especially with respect to the natural well-being and representation of its people; of all of its people: oppressed, marginalized, communalized, broken, women, children, queer communities, individuals and more. Or is it hegemonies’ dictating terms and conditions and creating circumstances for the rest on the receiving end and forcing their narratives, histories, perspectives from their platforms, from their mouthpiece and their media?
In this respect Critical Discourse Analysis studies the relations between discourse, power, dominance, social inequality and the position of the discourse analyst in such social relationships. A CDA’s argument has been to focus on the elites and their discourses. Next comes to notice the unique access of these elites to public discourses, and hence on their role in the discursive management of the public mind. Broadly they are the most obvious targets of the critical approach in discourse analysis. (Van Dijk, 1989b, 1993b)

Also since mass media has primarily been a fundamental propaganda tool of the elites that govern its structure, dissemination, access and control and conveniently ignores and silences dissenting voices, marginalized narratives and concern. Media from its early days has basically served as end of a dominant elite.

India, our country was perhaps known as the world’s largest democracy, considering the fascist times that we are in now; wears a lens of caste when it looks at anything. That lens applies to the fourth pillar of democracy as well – to Indian media, which is dominated by Brahmin-Bania caste and their narratives typically everywhere of their own culture and benefits. “Over 95% of owners of the mainstream media including print and television come from dominant caste backgrounds. About 70-80% of the topmost positions are occupied by dominant caste men. Dalits don’t even constitute 1% when it comes to deciding power in the country’s media.” Reported Jeya Rani, a Dalit journalist for Wire.

So when I say when it looks at anything, I literally mean a conscious caste lens that is embedded in one’s psyche – a mythical idea of superiority perhaps synonymous with other thoughtless ideas of ‘pure bred’, ‘divinity’, color and racial supremacy etcetera which physically manifests in casteist ways, behavior, discourses and narratives irrespective of where professionals come from. It defeats the purpose of that knowledge production when its only purpose remains to eulogies their own tribe or illegitimately occupy marginalized’s space/mic/stage/opportunities – if knowledge doesn’t interact and empower those who need it the most then perhaps the whole effort behind producing such knowledge becomes futile sans any conscious action. People pretty much operate in the same way in India – the list is endless – academia, media, storytellers, scientists or Khap panchayats. Then whether they are urban or rural, civilized or uncivilized, literate or illiterate. A push for their own ‘caste word’ remains another form of reservation –an economic benefit from subscribing to idea of a horrendous Hindu religious book called as Manusmruti which was nothing but a conspiracy theory written by dogmatic Manu to keep Dalits away from their rights and subsequently allow Hindus to exploit them continuously.

These people in action call themselves liberals and some are absolute intellectuals who never question caste. Basic rationale, education, curiosity, a scientific bent of mind, social science hypotheses, alternative narratives, history, social discoveries, caste based atrocities, institutional murders, atrocious caste and sexual violence on children, women, poor and people from oppressed marginalized communities; nothing almost nothing makes them bat an eye and observe and watch for real where they stand and operate from and from what location ( these Hindu intellectuals and media person) do they actually speak? Is it a lived experience or an external lens? It seems almost everything has failed to shatter this basic caste consciousness amongst our fellow citizens; failed our educated Indians at large when it comes to genuinely recognizing a conditioned caste consciousness. A silent pact of consciously refusing in not acknowledging the existence of this diseased system and its smooth operations in the life and flesh of a casteist India and then they talk of compassion and human rights.

On 125th birth anniversary of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, at London School of Economics; the 82-year-old economist and philosopher, Amartya Sen said, ‘One issue that keeps coming up in India as people being branded as ‘anti-national’ for not toeing a certain line. I would say caste is anti-national because it divides the nation. We want to be national, not anti-national, for which it is important to eliminate all divisions.” Now that was two years since 2014 when Bhartiya Janta Party came to power with a sweeping majority at the center. In the following years, a systematic attack on institutions, universities and people from marginalized communities began and an atrocious attempt to saffronize India too.

In June 2015 Film and Television Institute of India, Pune went on an indefinite strike since the Information and Broadcasting Minsitry’s appointment of television turned actor and politician Gajendra Chauhan whose only claim to fame was the character of Yudhishthira in B. R. Chopra’s Mahabharata and some B grade Bollywood venture. Another qualification that came in handy was Chauhan’s two-decade old loyalty to BJP and RSS. A year later in January 2016, five Dalit research scholars from Hyderabad Central University are ostracized from their university campuses resonant of caste based ostracization as dictated by Manusmriti, an ancient legal book of the Hindu code. Rohith Vemula, one of the five Dalit scholars is institutionally murdered and there begins a political game of his Dalit identity while he was alive and continues till date. “Vemula’s death immediately sparked large-scale protests on HCU and five student unions called a state-wide bandh on educational institutions in Telangana. Later that night, Dileep C Mandal, one of the most formidable Dalit voices on social media posted on Facebook that protests would be held the following day at three venues—the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai, the English and Foreign Languages University in Hyderabad, and outside the office of the minister of human resource development, Smriti Irani, in Delhi. On 18 January, India woke up to silence on the institutional murder of Rohith as far as mainstream media is concerned. The Times of India summed up Vemula’s death in a small, single-column report on page 13. The Indian Express gave it one paragraph in its news digest, on page 10. The Hindu gave it a single column on page 13, with a small blurb on its front page pointing to the story. That day Hindustan Times didn’t cover the story at all.” (Kaushik)

In July 2016 four Dalit men were allegedly beaten up and paraded while being tied to the rear of a vehicle by a group of gau rakshaks for skinning a dead cow in Una town of Gir Somnath district in Gujarat. In April-May 2017, Saharanpur saw a great clash between Dalits and Thakurs based on caste atrocity by the latter on various counts on Dalits; for putting up a signboard saying, ‘The Great Chamar’ which has been a bone of contention for Rajputs as it suggests a clear assertion of Dalit identity and also issues on celebrating Dr. B. R. Ambedkar’s birth anniversary. “A few days later some Rajputs started taking out procession of Maharana Pratap, without any permission by the Government. This irked the Dalits, as the Govt hadn’t allowed any permission to Dalits for Ambedkar Jayanti. When Bhim Army tried to peacefully talk with Rajputs violence unleashed. They used swords and burnt down about 52 homes of the Dalit community. They cut one woman’s hands and a Pradhan (Chief). Police didn’t say a word nor did stop them from that,” reported Swati Kamble for Round Table India.

TOI, Hindustan Times and Indian Express reported of the issue as ‘clash’ between Dalits and Thakurs without reporting in much detail about the causes of the ‘clash’ or the nature of criminal activity – ‘caste atrocity.’ The Indian Express mentioned about the three-month-old dispute between the two communities over the installation of an Ambedkar statue in the village and the Rajputs procession of Maharana Pratap in Dalit colony of Shabbirpur which resulted in rampant violence destruction. An alternative perspective on this entire episode was published in Round Table India by Swati Kamble.

Come 1st January 2018 and the nation wakes up to fundamentalist Hindutva organizations planned conspiracy and perpetuated violence against the Dalit-Bahujans who had come to commemorate the 200 years of Mahar and other untouchable castes’ bravery in the battle against the Peshwa in Bhima Koregaon. Following day’s headlines were something like this:

TOI: How Dalit resistance gained momentum in Maharashtra?
HT: Violence in Maharashtra as Dalits protest death of 28-year-old in Bhima Koregaon clashes, bandh called in state.
Indian Express: Bhima Koregaon violence: Conspiracy meeting or press conference? Probe on
The Hindu: Understanding Bhima Koregaon
India Today: #BhimaKoregaonViolence The question that is still baffling people is, why are the protesters and Dalits clashing over a battle won/lost 200 years ago.
Wire: The Myth of Bhima Koregaon Reinforces the Identities It Seeks to Transcend by Anand Teltubde

Hashtags such as #MahaCasteWar, #MaharashtraClasteClash, #DalitViolence, among others were used.

Maharashtra came to a stand still especially Mumbai when locals were derailed and local transports were burned down and stone pelting occurred. Prakash Ambedkar, the grandson of B R Ambedkar and a well known leader from Maharashtra expressed his concern over the issue and alleged that the entire episode was planned to mar the moral of Dalit and Ambedkarite voice and to polarize people on religious and caste lines. He named Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ebote, RSS’s loyalties who have been actively promoting the cause of Hindutva as being responsible for bringing the State to a halt.’ (Prabhodan Pol.)

What’s appaling is the language of this reportage. The dominant upper caste lens that sees violence instead of caste atrocity oblivious and also purposefully ignoring the caste reality, politics and its connotations applicable in India.

Then, doesn’t it look like the caste lens is on?

From calling ‘Bhima Koregaon Violence’ instead of ‘Bhima Koregaon caste atrocity or caste violence’; from equating history to myth; from passing a hard earned battle during an atrocious Brahmanical regime of Peshwa to passing it as an anti-national act while siding with the British; caste yet remains a conscious reality in India. Dhrubo Jyoti, a Dalit journalist who identifies as a genderqueer person and works on issues of caste, gender and equality shared on twitter, “The breathless national coverage of #Chembur protests just underlines the appalling lack of Dalit professionals in journalism. More vehicles were burnt and a man died in#BhimaKoregaon y’day with muted coverage. Only when Mumbai affected does it become news.”

With the government acting atrocious on marginalized communities, especially trying to cut funds for education for the reserved categories in higher education programmes at various institutes and universities, a great resurgence of Ambedkarite student movement is seen to be believed. Fuelling this resistance are the hopes of those harrowed brothers and sisters who have been victims of caste discrimination and violence at the hands of Brahamanical hegemony. This resistance is slowly finding space for itself in alternative narratives of the marginalized communities. With the shrooming of Dalit media channels such as Dalit Camera, Dalit Dastak, National Dastak, Round Table India, Velivada, Adivasi Resurgence, Sahil Online, Milli Gazette, Kashmir Reader, Raiot and Thumb Print are a few examples who have already started a discourse that’s different from the popular media, whose language are their lived experiences.

The alternative narrative of the oppressed class and their politics is their very assertion in a largely hegemonized Brahmanical State. A State that works for a certain ideology and a media that furthers the State’s ideology, in the language of the State irrespective of its place in democracy. It creates those narratives and discourse that works with the powerful and power is in the hand of the media since Brahmins and Bania own most of popular Indian media.



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