Being a journalist bestows no privilege on a Dalit. Every Dalit who steps into the media does so hoping to bring about a big change—“I won’t live the life I lived till now. I won’t spare caste. I will expose every atrocity.” But aspiring to write on caste makes a Dalit an alien in any media organisation. All through my 18 years of journalism, I was seen as an alien in every media organisation I worked in. It takes just a week for the reality of the “mainstream” to hit you—just two editorial meetings are enough. There is always someone willing to write on corruption, crimes, scandals… In this barrage of sensationalism, the Dalit wonders whether to even discuss her ideas or the notes she made on a caste-related crime, say an honour killing. Being left tongue-tied in an indifferent atmosphere is often her first journalistic experience. If she musters enough courage to voice her idea, she becomes an alien. Caste is omnipresent, yet casteism is never seen as significant enough to be a category of news like politics, sports, crime, films, entertainment and lifestyle.
Representation or reservation is a hated word in India. How many media organisations would follow the reservation policy to uphold the cause of social justice they espouse in their columns? Lack of talent is often cited as a reason for not hiring Dalit journalists, but I have seen many non-Dalits being given opportunities repeatedly until they could learn. But Dalits are expected to prove themselves immediately or leave! The three-century-old Indian media lacks diversity—it’s full of privileged caste Hindus, especially the Brahmins. Little has changed in 25 years since journalist B.N. Uniyal wrote In Search of a Dalit Journalist. A recent Oxfam-Newslaundry study found savarnas occupy 90 per cent of the decision-making positions. Atrocities against Dalits happen every day, but the news hardly appears. White supremacist domination in American newsrooms in the 1960s persists in India unchangeable as Brahminical supremacy. If there is no diversity among those who report the news, how can there be any diversity in the news itself? Caste oppression never makes headlines and doesn’t figure in primetime debates. For example, there were 81 instances of atrocities against Dalits during four months of lockdown in Tamil Nadu—but that’s not the stuff of primetime debate.