Thursday, December 10, 2009

[ZESTCaste] Concern at exclusion of Dalits from mainstream polity

Other States - Rajasthan

Concern at exclusion of Dalits from mainstream polity

Special Correspondent

JAIPUR: Speakers at a State-level workshop on "Role of media in
strengthening Scheduled Castes and women's leadership" here on Tuesday
expressed concern over "politics of exclusion" and absence of legal
safeguards which had led to elimination of under-privileged sections
from the mainstream polity and unceasing discrimination against them.

Journalists, academicians, activists and representatives of civil
society groups said while addressing the half-day event that no
political party was serious about bringing Dalits and women to the
frontline leadership and the inclusion of these sections in universal
adult franchise continued to be a neglected area for the State

The Society for Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA) organised the
workshop as part of its ongoing project for strengthening the SCs and
women's leadership in the Panchayati Raj and urban local bodies.

The project aims at increasing the number of Dalits and women
contesting elections and improving the quality of their leadership.

A study report on "Democratic rights of Dalits: Violation in local
government elections" was released at the workshop to highlight the
gravity of poll-related violence against Dalits and denial of equal
rights to both Dalit candidates and Dalit voters. It listed 37 forms
of aggression faced by Dalit candidates and 47 by Dalit voters.

K. S. Tomar, Senior Coordinating Editor, Hindustan Times, said the
media had a duty to apprise the policy-makers of the pathetic
situation of Dalits and women at the grassroots to enable them to take
measures to improve their lot.

He said the journalists working in the rural areas could factually
report the incidents of bias, prejudices and bigotry and contribute to
the empowerment of these sections.

Creative talent

Sanjeev Bhanawat, Head of the Centre for Mass Communication at
Rajasthan University, said steps were needed to improve the presence
of Dalit and women journalists in both the mainstream and alternative
media to bring depth to the coverage of issues relating to them. "The
creative talent of young Dalits and women for development
communication is yet to be fully harnessed," he added.

Sunny Sebastian of The Hindu said an "affirmative space" was required
for ensuring proper coverage of under-privileged sections in the
present age of "media packages".

He felt that any attempt to sensitise journalists vis-À-vis Dalits and
women would succeed only when the media institutions spell out their
priorities for highlighting the unending discrimination, inequities
and injustice.

While public relations activist Manohar Prabhakar said newspapers
should shift their attention from offering packages to candidates in
elections to laying down of norms for coverage of Dalit issues, former
civil servant S. N. Singh said the national media should expose the
"conspiracy" to discontinue the reservation policy in elections,
education and employment.

Centre for Dalit Rights patron P. L. Mimroth said the political
parties, which field Dalits and women from the reserved seats out of
legal compulsion, should allow them to contest general seats as well
to ensure their empowerment. "Unless the mind-set against these
sections changes, the prospects for transformation in the political
scenario are very bleak," he added.

State Chief Electoral Officer R. K. Jain said the Election Commission
regularly receives reports about threats, intimidation and violence
against Dalits during polls and felt that media persons by their
follow-up stories could help in implementation of legal provisions to
prevent such incidents.

National Dalit Movement for Justice director Sirivella Prasad pointed
out that 64 per cent of violence during elections in the country was
related to caste, while there was no mechanism to hold political
parties responsible for flagrant violation of the Representation of
the People Act.


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