Tuesday, May 10, 2011


I wrote about the share of dalits in the mass media sometime before in this blog The position remains and remains and of concern. Mass Media plays an important role in the process of empowerment – political, economic, social, cultural, spiritual and so on in the over all development of the society. The dalit community does not have this important instrument on its own and also does have an access to the Indian mass media which inherently is prejudiced and biased reflecting the caste based divisions of the society at large. The situation requires rectification. But nobody can do it except the community itself, the dalits themselves, of course with the support of the liberal segments of the society and the establishment.

I am not writing this not on the basis of any research but off the cuff, as I personally know and learnt through the process. Dr. B. R. Ambedkar was not oblivious of the importance of mass media. He started a periodical paper “ MOOK NAYAK” in the 30’s. I did not find anything more than this, particularly in Punjab. My father used to mention about the UJALA - an Urdu/Punjabi weekly or fortnightly which was published from Jalandhar in the 50’s. Kartara Ram Madhas, Pritam Ramdaspuri and some other enthusiasts were connected with the publication. The next came the BHEEM PATRIKA an Urdu, Punjabi and later in Hindi too. The publication still sustains, in spite of the fact that it used to be the mouthpiece of the then Republican Party which is no more the case. The Bheem Patrika now has an electronic edition also. The credit entirely goes to Lahori Ram Balley, its founder Editor who could manage to keep the flag flying through thick and thin. Balley is an intellectual and is a man of substance, no matter he could not succeed in politics. Balley Sahib started editing yet another weekly the KIRTI in Punjabi. I distinctly remember that I attended the inaugural function or the KIRTI and relished the palak pakoras and tea. In the 60’s yet another weekly rag-tag Ravidass Partrika appeared. Mangoo Ram Jaspal was its Editor. I understand it still has some presence. It is a matter of gratification that slowly the much needed awareness started dawning on the younger lot of the society. Some young activists of Bootan Mandi, my native place, launched AMBEDKAR TIMES, a weekly in Punjabi. Hans Raj Bhukha, Sagli Ram, Hussan Madhas (now Boudh) took the lead. But the effort could not be sustained financially and otherwise. I understand some other BSP activists like Jarnail Singh and C.L. Chumber also took the initiative and started the JANTAK LEHAR in the 70’s. But I think it was an half hearted effort. The motivation was in place but the requisite wherewithal to run a paper was not available.

The time is changing for the better. The community started growing in strength both educationally and financially. Some of them kissed success and prosperity abroad. Sant Ramanand of Dera Sachkhand Balan played a positive role. He not only started taking recourse to the mass media through cassettes and videos to spread the message of Guru Ravidass but also stated a weekly in Punjabi – BEGUMPUR SHEHAR. The Begumpur Shehar could find its readership among the dalit NRIs. The paper is doing fine, in a limited way, under its new Editor Sant Surinder Dass Bawa. I understand C.L. Chumber, a dedicated activist also edited a monthly KAUMI UDARIAN which is published from Jalandhar.. I don’t know weather it is still being published or no. But I must write and appreciate that Chumber Sahib is active and write regularly on the issues of interest and concern to the community. The more viable and successful venture belongs to Prem Chumber, brother of C.L. Chumber, in the USA. He picked up the threads and re-launched AMBEDKAR TIMES in California (USA). Apart from the e-edition of the paper in English, it has a good 32 page print edition in Punjabi which is available on the news stands and other distribution outlets in the major cities of the USA, Canada and Europe. I wish Prem Chumber and the Ambedkar Times further success.

It is a matter of satisfaction to note that, slowly but steadily, the community is grasping the idea. I have seen, of late, many websites and forums on the social network like the FACE BOOK, TWITTER etc. and also dedicated websites to the community affairs on the Internet. The recent entries, in this regard, which have come to notice are - the APNIMITTI which is edited and published by a young enthusiast Ajay Yadav from Jalandhar. It appears that his main objective is to support the BSP in its political agenda and the website www.upkaar.com being hosted and run by Roop Sidhu in the UAE. I have found the upkaar.com quite good and well maintained with a wide open community agenda. I wish the efforts of Roop Sidhu all success.

The things are happening. It is time that the community leaders should take a fresh look at the mass media requirements of the community. Any further neglect in this regard would be injurious to the health of the community. Let me conclude with a couplet of Mohd. Iqbal:

नहीं मिनत कसे ताबे सनिदन दास्ताँ मेरी; ख़ामोशी गुफ्तगू और बेज़ुबानी है जुबान मेरी,
यह कैसी ज़ुबाबंदी है सकी तेरी महफ़िल मैं, जहाँ तो बात करने को तरसती है जुबान मेरी !