Friday, February 28, 2014

Dalit Camera: Through Untouchable Eyes

Samata Biswas

Human Rights violations and its media coverage have been under a scanner for its inconsistence reporting, and choosing to report based on market interests and interests of target audience. These interests often clash, and collide with majoritarian views and wave of the masses leaving little space for generating content regarding issues that affect the marginalised. It is at this juncture, and with this realisation, that Dalit Camera: Through Untouchable Eyesself-consciously formed itself as a platform that would enable marginalised voices to tell their own stories.

In their own words:
Dalit Camera (DC) is a YouTube Channel, through which we (largely students) cover the perspectives on/voices of Dalits, Adivasis, Bahujans and Minorities (DABM). DC has been active for the past one year. The first incident covered by DC was the desecration of an Ambedkar statue in Hyderabad. Though we did upload some videos before, this was the first time that we started taking the perspectives of different voices on an issue. Basically we were fed up with mainstream English channels that were outdoing each other on accusing DABM people. As a response to the cartelised-hegemony of the English news channels, we started taking different views, including that of Dalit activists and making it available to the public. The first issue that we dealt with at length and gave us some fame was the Osmania University beef issue. Our standpoint found resonances in many campuses across India like the English and Foreign Languages University, Osmania University, Hyderabad Central University, Jamia Millia Islamia and Jawaharlal Nehru University, where Dalit-Bahujan and Minority students rubbed shoulders for conducting beef festivals for gaining basic food rights in their respective campuses. The next issue we took up was the Ambedkar Cartoon controversy. This was soon followed by a critical discussion on Onam. The videos taken by DC in this regard played a vital role in examining the history of Onam from different DABM perspectives and forced several campuses across India to relook the way Onam was being celebrated and a hegemonically 'neutral' but violent Kerala identity was being constructed through that.

The platform of social media is extremely useful in this regard. Youtube allows one to upload any video one chooses (provided one has a camera and an internet connection. Platforms such as facebook and blogs, mailing lists related to similar concerns can then share the link on their pages and threads, whereby concerned individuals and groups can access the video. Since, there is minimal mediation and supervision, the content, no matter what, can be circulated widely and in very little time, across virtual and geographical boundaries. In contexts of forced migration, the narratives of forced migrants are hardly ever present. A case in point is Nonadanga, a displaced colony right next to Kolkata, where the conditions of living are abysmal, law and order situation deplorable. While interviewing the residents, Dalit Camera came across reports of gross misdemeanour by the police in the case of a domestic violence complaint filed by a Dalit woman against her husband. The subsequent suicide of the man led to protests in the area, which were termed “mob fury” by the mainstream media. Only through the interviews published uploaded by Dalit Camera could one truly understand the conditions of living, enabling various forms of violence and disabling the scope of protest. This is what one of the activists had to say:
After the setting up of the police camp here, there has been an increase in the number of arrack shops in the area. There were only two arrack shops before the camp was set up, but the number has risen to five now. Moreover, any organizational move made by us is squashed by the police. We do not want the police camp here.

Other incidents of caste atrocities, gender and communal atrocities also often face similar administrative and media apathy- more so when the atrocities are perpetrated by the organs of the state. At such a juncture, given the recent technological developments and the relative affordability/ availability of social media, Dalit Camera emerges as such a platform where marginalised people present their own stories, multiple points of views can speak to each other and different social movements and activists can communicate with one another.

Visit the following links for more details nonadanga&catid=119&Itemid=132

No comments: