03 October, 2004
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...."
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?"
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."
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
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."
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?"
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
won't," shouted the Nawab. "That will be a social holocaust,"
echoed the worried house.
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!"
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.