FII Interviews: Journalist Meena Kotwal On Minority Politics, Journalism At the moment And The Caste Divide

Meena Kotwal is an acclaimed Dalit journalist and the founding father of The Mooknayak, a YouTube channel and net portal. She has labored with mainstream information organisations such because the British Broadcast Company (BBC) Hindi and likewise writes for publications corresponding to The Wire, The Print, Feminism in India, and others. Her open letter to Kangana Ranaut went viral after it was printed in The Wire. It was printed in a number of Indian languages, in addition to Nepali. Her tales are typically about caste, class, gender, and their intersections.

She acquired Lt. Alok Tomar Smriti’s first scholarship, which is given to distinctive  Dalit college students enrolled within the IIMC programme. She acquired the IIMCAA Award 2019 (Indian Institute of Mass Communication Alumni Affiliation) for her excellent journalism. She additionally acquired two IIMCAA Awards in 2020. It was the primary time a journalist acquired awards in two totally different classes.

In Dialog with FII, Meena Kotwal talks about her preliminary years of labor as a journalist, minority politics and the deeply problematic casteist construction of our society.

Supply: The Satyashodhak

FII: What impressed you to be a journalist? Did you all the time wish to turn out to be a journalist?

Meena: I by no means dreamed of being a journalist. This occupation was by no means on my thoughts. My father and mom used to work as labourers, so neither did they’ve any recommendations for me nor might I take one for myself. Due to this fact, I used to comply with the recommendations of others. Through the years, after speaking to my elders and associates some advised making an attempt modelling whereas others insisted on turning into a journalist. At the moment, being broadcast on TV was the one factor I might ever learn about journalism. So I had a really restricted understanding of the sphere again then. Then types have been launched and I utilized at Jamia (Jamia Millia Islamia, A Central College). From my journey at Jamia, I got here to grasp slightly about what journalism is. Then I studied on the Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC) and acquired to know extra.

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Meena Kotwal with a mic in hand standing next to a distressed man
Supply: Meena Kotwal’s Twitter

Discovering a job was very tough for me at first. And when I discovered one at Nationwide Dastak the sort of information that I lined was oriented towards excessive violence and atrocities. As time went on, I additionally realised that I couldn’t see or discover a future for my group, Dalits within the media. And even when some Dalits nonetheless handle to make it, they received’t be there on the decision-making ranges anyway.

I felt like being a Dalit, I received’t be allowed to develop professionally within the media. So I made a decision to stop my job and pursue academia. After which whereas pursuing my M. Phil my accomplice inspired me to use for BBC. Based on him, I might not be leaving BBC due to these discriminatory the reason why I left the media discipline basically earlier. With out a lot expertise, I believed that there can be completely no manner for me to get chosen for the BBC. Surprisingly, even after lots of people utilized, I nonetheless acquired chosen. And undoubtedly, I had no proper to reject BBC. On this manner, I acquired again to journalism, in any other case, this occupation was lengthy gone from my manner. However then I confronted casteism in BBC too, then I turned so vocal that now I preserve elevating my voice for my group.

FII: Being a journalist in addition to a researcher up to now your work has all the time represented the minorities and marginalised communities, those whose experiences are hardly understood within the mainstream media’s narrative. Based on you, how vital is it for these tales to be narrated by folks from inside the group?

Meena: I all the time preserve saying if my hand is reduce solely I’m the one who would sense the precise ache as a result of finally, I’m the only real sufferer of that ache. And I will inform my ache higher as a result of that half belongs to me. Equally, solely folks belonging to that marginalised group, might be higher capable of mirror on their very own ache. In case you see until now another person is writing their historical past and people folks describe that historical past by limiting it in a particular method.

Not too long ago, I lined a narrative in regards to the Dalit Bajuhan icons and the way their identification is being faraway from faculty books and curricula. Like a clay pot, you get molded right into a mildew as a toddler at school. Therefore, youngsters of those communities  are being disadvantaged of their previous. The historical past of their very own group. We have now made them suppose that it doesn’t matter if we exist or not, as a result of lack of narratives they suppose that since, nobody from my group has risen to this place, perhaps I received’t be capable of make it too. Take Dr. B.R Ambedkar’s instance, he excelled in so many areas, however we nonetheless restrict his position in historical past to only the Structure Making half.

At the moment we’re celebrating the Azaadi Ka Amrit Mohatsav, however for whom? Who’s writing and recording this historical past, so what does this freedom even imply for us Dalits? Now our technology is the primary technology from the group who’ve learn a lot, if they won’t enable us to create house of their mainstream media, we received’t cease. We are going to finally open our personal ventures, and discover a manner out. That’s why it is vitally vital to jot down your individual historical past and in regards to the occasions of the previous that occurred along with your communities which proceed to occur thus far.

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FII: Regardless of the truth that your YouTube channel, The Mooknayak, repeatedly explores these points, you’ve gotten nonetheless reportedly acquired on-line trolling primarily based on caste and gender, I would love you to focus on your expertise and the way you smash these trolls away. What’s the impression of this fixed risk and hatred acquired by you and plenty of others who muster the braveness to relate these tales and spotlight the on-ground realities of those communities?

Meena: Look, now I’m not afraid of trolling anymore. My worry of abuse is gone, and now I really feel like I’ve not been working if I’m not abused. I really feel like a centuries-old system has been observing adjustments now, and I’m part of this alteration. I sense this alteration via the sort of response I get from my work. We are going to proceed to take action. 

Meena Kotwal standing with a woman
Supply: Meena Kotwal’s Twitter

FII: Within the media, quite a lot of organisations declare to create an inclusive house for all and supposedly say that they ‘rent a sure proportion of individuals from the minority communities‘, however we are able to’t actually see this proportion rising, the place precisely do you suppose the issue lies?

Meena: There’s a ‘filter‘ in most media organisations. A really delicate discrimination that you just’d not realise as evident as you anticipate it to occur. This filter says to take away folks from different castes and add folks from your individual. Dalit adivasis are thrown out of the media by way of this ‘filter‘. Now, comes the alternate media, which talks about inclusivity of their newsroom areas however as its primary motive is to focus on the federal government on a regular basis, it fails to deliver that form of illustration. Hardly, one or two folks from Dalit communities could be seen in these media retailers, forgetting about their illustration in decision-making our bodies. Then, they preserve speaking about ‘benefit‘. What’s benefit? Is it outlined by the individual’s surname, their caste? Therefore, now we have created even an alternate of this different media. Though now we have fewer assets nonetheless we’re being recognised for our work.

The alternate and mainstream media then asks us, so ought to we cease doing these tales and cease reporting such information altogether? After all, not. Maintain reporting however bear in mind in the present day you’re reporting this however finally you would wish somebody past the strains of that filter or benefit, somebody who has the sensibilities to report that trigger. And you cannot discover somebody higher than those with these sensibilities from inside the group. Even in regards to the benefit because you suppose you’ve gotten these capabilities and the correct quantity of assets then train them in the event that they lack that benefit. 

 Is it so tough to show Dalits, and Adivasis when you possibly can train so many others? Some will study couple of minutes others will study quite a bit, but when they study, then your function is solved, that effort is simply not seen in any respect in most media organisations.

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FII: When minorities specific their opinions, the state is held accountable for its actions and is continually questioned and checked, however have you ever ever felt that the state and its establishments don’t present actual options to their issues, however reasonably politicise them? 

Meena: All governments are the identical, all of them wish to politicise faith in order that the Hindu-Muslim debate continues. While you discuss these points, you simply finish discourses revolving round all different vital points, be it employment, inflation or schooling. The current, case of deceased Shraddha Walker was highlighted a lot as a result of the individual discovered responsible was a Muslim, a few days again we noticed an identical case the place a Hindu was allegedly accused however that case didn’t obtain a lot masking as Walker’s case did.

Meena Kotwal wearing coloured saree receiving an award
Supply: Khabrilal

Even somebody who doesn’t perceive metropolitan metropolis politics whereas sitting in distant areas has been compelled to suppose that Muslims are chargeable for all their issues within the nation. This propaganda has even reached their minds. That’s the sort of governance we’re witnessing in the present day. However, we don’t actually care in regards to the governments, all governments are the identical. We have been and truthfully, should not even part of the system but. So if we cowl our group’s points and their voices are heard by the federal government that will assist in holding the federal government accountable straight or not directly.

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FII: Lastly, in occasions like these when the state and its insurance policies are concentrating on minorities, what would you recommend to the marginalised and minority communities who’re working and contributing in several sectors of our nation? Many individuals fail to imagine or simply blissfully ignore that this form of discrimination on the premise of caste, faith, gender and so forth. nonetheless exists, what would you prefer to say to them? How can they get up for themselves and their group of their workspaces?

Meena: It’s not attainable to do that work for our communities by staying in that mainstream house of media. The media kills these genuine voices and advantages its identification with a tag of being liberal only for highlights. We aren’t mere tokens. Therefore, it is much better for us to create an area and an identification of our personal.

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I might ask all of the individuals who suppose this caste discrimination doesn’t exist to conduct a small survey themselves, analyse what sort of persons are cleansing your sewer strains, and people who are excessive monks on the temples. Try these small columns even in mainstream newspapers, with these very small headlines like ‘Demise as a result of working in sewer strains, or Mob lynched an individual as they saved a moustache’. In case you suppose we’re biased as a substitute, it’s alright to cease studying our content material and verify mainstream media. It is possible for you to to seek out precisely who’s being discriminated towards by whom, and who’s being lynched by whom. Then determine whether or not you suppose reservation is correct or not, or whether or not caste privileges and discrimination lead folks wherever or not.

Meena Kotwal interviewing someone with a mic in hand
Supply: Meena Kotwal’s Linkedin

At the moment, you already see the privatisation of the economic system at a large scale, it is just the primary technology that has managed to achieve this stage. We already see no reservations in non-public. Their downside is just not that they don’t seem to be getting house, their downside is that we’re doing higher than them, as soon as on condition that house. Therefore, they’re scared, and we’d simply allow them to be. 

This interview has been translated.