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Tunnel Vision

By Chandrabhan Prasad

03 October, 2004
The Pioneer

A labyrinth of solitude...." "Ya, ya..., step carefully, but that's not what Octavio Paz meant. This is a Delhi Metro tunnel," whispered the editor of a liberal English newsweekly and the host of the meet.

"I know. But this strange venue 15 m below CP? So far, editors' meets have been held on the ninth floor of that grand hotel, staring at colonial constructs - Parliament and all that...."

The newly-initiated editor asked: "Why did you insist that I come in a Delhi Police Head Constable attire?"

The host replied: "It's to camouflage our identity. Keep our operation secret."

"Look at the turbanned man, walking like a dying duck?"

"Don't be funny. He is the CEO of India's most prestigious news channel! He has so much grey-black hair that he can hide his identity with just a turban. and he hasn't hurt his ankle. He's just acting".

"And the VHP guy... with the trishul and kamandal?" "Oh, he edits a reputedEnglish daily, and subscribes to Writers' Building. "Wow." "Is that Johnny Walker imitation the editor of a newsweekly and anchor?" "You got it right. But how did you figure it? "He smiled." "Amazing, and that Nawab with a caged bird, and paan-masala oozing out of his mouth?" "Don't be silly, he is our Nagpur pride, chosen by the PM himself. "Wow. And this subaltern drug addict look alike, with soiled beard, coughing... sobbing as well." "Brother... he edits a stunning weekly tabloid." Stupendous... a la Raj Kapoor, a cap with antenna, jumping and talking." "Brother. He edits a truth newspaper." "Sorry, you better start the proceedings."

"Brothers, apology for the choice of venue for our operation codenamed 'Nuke 1932,' our own Manhattan Project. And don't mind this camouflage exercise," said the liberal in his opening remarks. "But, George Orwell can't be dismissed." "Cheers," hailed the house. "About the agenda: our Dalits are faced with a crisis, threatening their dignified social existence. A few mindless Dalits are calling for a Dalit bourgeoisie." "Shame," the house unanimously burst out. "They want jobs in industry, a share in trade, media, cinema, knowledge. They are quoting from the American doctrine of Diversity," the voice chokingly said.

"Down with imperialism, down with America," the Nagpur and Writers' Building jumped up and down, whistling unstoppably.

"In this hour of crisis, let us stand with the Dalits."

"Why not," said the chorus. "What the Whites are doing with their Black citizens, should not be replicated in India," he cautioned. "Down with US imperialism," yelled the tabloid editor. "To uproot a community, create conditions where they get uprooted from their past, age-old occupations, culture, language, tradition...", said the liberal. "Down, down", thundered a mid-career editor.

"Have Dalits ever exploited labour?" "Never." "Won't Dalit industrialists exploit?" "Shame, shame", the consensus continued. "Should Dalits get into English education"? "Never... English will eliminate Dalit languages ," the consensus continued. "Should Dalits hold cocktail parties in 5 star hotels?"

"Never... this is against Dalit culture," cried the frenzied house.

"Look at us: tradition, culture, social perceptions. Do our children take to shoe-shining, pig-rearing, cleaning toilets, labour on land?"

"Not at all, this is against our tradition," the house said. "If we are so protective of our tradition, why can't Dalits enjoy their own traditional privileges?" "Cheers!" the house yelled.

"Look at the Dalits. Once they are industrialists, traders, CEOs, scientists, film-makers, editors, anchors, will their children go back to their traditions, occupations, language, dress, culture, their systems of medicine," the editor asked nervously.

"No, they won't," shouted the Nawab. "That will be a social holocaust," echoed the worried house.

"What then is the way out to protect our Dalit brethren," wondered the truth-seeker. "Go back to your newsrooms, studios, and block any newsitem, any discussion on Diversity. Don't even discuss Bio-diversity!"

"Cheers," yelled the editor-anchor. "Whenever Dalit issues come up, hype up issues like Best Bakery, Savarkar...if that doesn't work, simply trivialise the issue. News channels can take the lead. As editor/anchors, we have a social responsibility.

"We are more educated than Dalits, and know better than so-called Dalits intellectuals as what is good for them."

And thus continued the Editors' Tunnel Meet on Dalits.






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