No place for Dayamani, in mainstream media why ?


No place for Dayamani, Media Watch, Thehoot .org
A significant agitation against land acquisition and the bail and re-arrest of its leader were barely noticed by mainstream media.
 Isn’t it the media’s disdain for lower caste/class dissenters, wonders ARITRA BHATTACHARYA. Pix: Dayamani Barla, Indiatogether.org
 Friday, Oct 26 11:16:49, 2012

I remember my first glimpse of Dayamani Barla: there she was on the screen, fierce, stoic, talking about the ravages the Koel Karo dam and hydel power project would bring to the people of the region. I remember thinking of her as a charismatic-yet-grounded activist then, taking my cue from the images flickering on the screen. She was featured on a documentary on radical women writers, poets, and activists I think, but I may be wrong; I remember nothing of the documentary except that I encountered Dayamani Barla (and Putul Murmu) there for the first time.

Since that day in 2007, I encountered Barla on numerous occasions–in news reports on agitations against land acquisition, in meetings and agitations against excesses committed by the state, in newsletters of grassroots NGOs, and in her own writings on numerous issues.

And so, it wasn’t so much of a surprise when I came across this news report stating that she’d been sent to jail in a 2006 case. Of late, the convener of the Adivasi-Moolvasi Astitva Raksha Manch and one of the national conveners of National Alliance for People’s Movement had been camping with villagers in Nagri, who were protesting against the “acquisition” of fertile agricultural land for the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) and the NationalUniversity for Study and Research in Law (NUSRL). Barla’s activities as a journalist turned anti-displacement (tribal, woman) activist had been a sore point for the Jharkhand government, and her participation in the Nagri agitation perhaps tested the State’s patience, which sent the police to hound her. She evaded arrest and surrendered before the court on October 16 and was granted bail two days later.

The jail authorities, however, refused to release Barla on October 19, and instead said that she had been arrested in a fresh case. Among similar instances, my mind went back to the occasion when activist Arun Ferreira was re-arrested in front of the very jail he was released from this January. Like Barla, Ferreira had spent years exposing the excesses of the state, and it’s no secret that the state’s machinery tries to keep such elements behind bars.

Barla’s bail and her re-arrest, however, were hardly noticed by the mainstream media. None of the big three among the English papers—The Times of IndiaHindustan Times, and Indian Expresscarried a story on Barla’s bail and re-arrest. There was no story either on the two English television news networks–NDTV and CNN-IBN.

What was more surprising, however, was the fact that while Dainik JagranHindustan andAmar Ujala had no story on her surrender, bail, or re-arrest, Dainik Bhaskar and Navbharat Times reported her surrender before the court, but had no story on her being granted bail, and her subsequent re-arrest. Only Prabhat Khabar, the paper Barla used to write for, carried ashort article on October 19 on her being granted bail. But even here, there was no report on her being re-arrested thereafter.

Holy cows

It has often been observed by media analysts that the regional media is more sensitive to local happenings, and the spurt in the regional media’s readership and circulation owes a lot to the localization of content. What might the exclusion of news about Barla’s re-arrest tell us about the regional media then?

For one, it might point to the fact that across the board, the media considers the IIMs and such educational institutions as holy cows; they are, like the Kudankulam nuclear power plant, a matter of prestige, and essential to the progress of the country. Anyone opposing these is viewed with deep suspicion therefore. So also Barla.

Another factor to keep in mind perhaps in the context of localization of the regional media’s content and the exclusion of Barla’s bail and re-arrest is numbers. Barla surrendered before the court against the backdrop of the Nagri agitation. Arguably, the 153 families that are the landowners–or project-affected in the land acquisition for IIM and NUSRL, on paper–do not constitute a large enough number for the regional media to take notice and tweak their content.

Also, when a paper carries an article on someone being sent to a 14-day judicial custody, mentioning the charges she is accused of, but chooses not to report on her being subsequently granted bail and then re-arrested–like in the case of Dainik Bhaskar and Navbharat Times–where does that leave the reader? Does such partial news serve to discredit/malign the activist in the eyes of the reader?

Since the IIM is a matter of prestige, it comes as no surprise that The Times of India did cover the Nagri protest. The article in the paper, however, does not mince words about which side it is on, when it states, “All the protesters, led by Barla, were carrying traditional weapons and attacked the policemen on duty”. With this one statement, an alleged act of attacking the policemen on duty, in a case for which the accused has not even appeared in court, is converted into an undisputed fact.

Still more curious is The Times of India’s attribution of a quote to Barla for a story datelined October 20. How did the paper manage to speak to Barla when she was supposedly in jail? Are we, as readers, to disregard the Asian Human Rights Committee report which states that Barla has been in jail since October 16? In the TOI’s scheme of things, Barla was clearly still leading the protesters!

Pecking order

Does the exclusion of Barla’s bail and re-arrest reflect the social hierarchies that the media is deeply entrenched in? Tehelka happens to be the only mainstream media outlet in English that has carried a story on Barla and the Nagri agitation. (Or is it Nargi? Why does Tehelka say it’s Nargi, when everyone else across the Hindi and English media calls it Nagri? Further, why doesTehelka state that Barla surrendered before the Jharkhand police when everyone else says she surrendered before the local court?).

In the media’s pecking order perhaps, Barla is not a credible activist; at least she’s not big enough for her case to be reported.  

To be considered powerful/ credible in the mediascape, an activist has to be based in Delhi, and/or take potshots at big politicians (readers might recall how the national media “discovered” Anna once he shifted “base” to Delhi; we might recall Kejriwal too. And also think of how the media ignored P.V. Rajagopal and his march though the numbers he was commanding was more than Anna Hazare’ s).

It has often been said that non-violent agitation requires an audience to be effective, and in the context of agitations in rural areas, this audience is absent. And so is the media, which does not bother to report on an agitation unless the numbers are big enough for it not to ignore. The absence of media reports often becomes a credible ploy in the hands of the state in its efforts to criminalise dissent. No media coverage could very well feed into the theory that the dissenter was carrying out activities secretively and illegally.

Of course, agitators could resort to spectacles; they could work towards creating images that capture attention. Think of the jal satyagraha in Madhya Pradesh, and how the national media honed in on the story then, only to forget all about it once the spectacle was over.

Then again, even a spectacle offers no guarantee of coverage; the jal satyagraha in Kudankulam was hardly used by the media to raise questions it ought to have, as this recent Hoot storyshowed.

Barla’s exclusion from newspapers and newsreels also points to another factor: the thousands of activists and dissenters lodged in jails and the systemic ignoring of their cases by the media. Binayak Sen has often been at pains to explain that his case is just one among thousands in the country. Yet why is it that we never hear of Dayamani Barlas, Jeetan Marandis, Sudhir Dhawales, Anjali Sontakkes, or Sheetal Sathes in the same way as we heard of Sen?

Is it the media’s bias–against people from a lower caste-class background, against “people not like us”? For, the one thing common between all the names mentioned above is the fact that none of them comes from the middle class. They are from among the tribal or lower caste sections of society, and have/had been leading struggles against state excesses in various ways before being branded Maoists by the state and arrested.

Barla hasn’t been called a Maoist as yet–at least there’s no government propaganda in the media labeling her of leading a Maoist cell or indoctrinating the youth. But her case isn’t so different from the few mentioned above. And in ignoring her case, the media has once again shown itself to be part of the systematic disdain with which lower caste-class dissenters are treated.

 

Indian woman with a steely resolve


By Moushumi Basu in Ranchi, BBC

Dayamani Barla

Ms Barla runs a small tea-shop

An Indian woman who worked as a housemaid washing dishes and sweeping floors for the rich is now leading a protest campaign against a major corporation.

Dayamani Barla leads the tribal campaign against Arcelor Mittal‘s proposed steel plant in the eastern state of Jharkhand.

In recognition of her work, Ms Barla was recently invited to Sweden to attend a European Social Forum (ESF) workshop on the rights of indigenous peoples.

She was also chosen as one of 23 speakers from across the world to speak on indigenous peoples’ rights and environmental justice.

Paltry income

Ms Barla’s life story is one of struggle, but also one of extraordinary determination and achievement.

Often sleeping on railway platforms, she paid for her education with what little income she had.

After completing a master’s degree, she entered journalism, becoming the first tribal woman journalist from the largely tribal state of Jharkhand.

A crowd of tribals in Jharkhand, India

The tribals say they will not give up their land for the steel plant

For her work, she has won prestigious awards.

But she earns her livelihood by running a small tea-shop in the state capital, Ranchi, which she claims is “one of the best places to listen to the voices of the people”.

At the conference in Sweden, she spoke about the people from nearly 40 villages in Jharkhand who are expected to lose their land to the Arcelor Mittal steel plant.

Arcelor Mittal wants to invest $8.79bn to set up one of the world’s biggest steel plants in the area.

The greenfield steel project requires 12,000 acres of land and a new power plant.

‘Not an inch’

Ms Barla’s group – Adivaasi, Moolvaasi, Astitva Raksha Manch (Forum for the protection of tribal and indigenous people’s identity) – says apart from causing massive displacement, the project will destroy the forests in the area.

It will also have an impact on the water sources and ecosystems, thereby threatening the environment and the very source of sustenance for indigenous peoples, it says.

“We will not give an inch of our land,” says Ms Barla.

For Arcelor Mittal, Dayamani Barla could prove to be as much trouble as the fiery Bengali politician Mamata Bannerjee has been for Tata Motors in the state of West Bengal.

A crowd of tribals in Jharkhand, India

Tribal protesters say land is their heritage

“We will give away our lives, but we will not part with an inch of our ancestral land. The Mittals would not be allowed here – do not grab our ancestral land,” is the message from Ms Barla and the villagers who back her campaign to save their land.

Arcelor Mittal’s Vijay Bhatnagar told the BBC that his company was not trying to grab any land. He said that they were willing to wait as long as it takes to sort out the issue.

“We are trying to hold a dialogue with the villagers, they may have their genuine reasons for grievances, but we will certainly succeed in convincing them that the rehabilitation and resettlement policy of Jharkhand will be followed in letter and spirit by us,” he said.

Local Congress party MP Sushila Kerketta believes the villagers will be won round in the end.

She says she has been holding successful meetings with local people to explain the benefits of the deal to them.

“If companies such as Arcelor Mittal set up industries here, it will largely solve the problem of unemployment,” she says.

The villagers, under Ms Barla’s leadership, however, are refusing to budge.

“Her campaigns have the ability to draw masses from the grassroots,” says Ville Veikko Hirvela, social activist and a member of Friends of the Earth, and Etnia, one of the organisers of the ESF workshop.

“For any tribal community, land is not an asset to be sold, it is their heritage. They are not masters or owners of it, but its protectors for the next generations,” he says.

Ms Barla says: “The corporate houses are simply ignorant of the concept of the subsistence economy of a tribal society that is rooted in agriculture and forest produce.

“The natural resources to us are not merely means of livelihood, but our identity, dignity, autonomy and culture have been built on them for generations.

“These communities will not survive if they are alienated from the natural resources. How is it possible to rehabilitate or compensate us?” she asks.

JOIN US ON FACEBOOK HERE – https://www.facebook.com/jaljangalzameen? Dayamani Barla’s Supporter page

 

#DayaniBarla’s arrest: Civil society condemns Jharkhand Govt.’s vindictive move


Newzfirst

RANCHI – The arrest of noted social activist Dayamani Barla has drawn sharp condemnation from across the civil society. Meanwhile, accusing Jharkhand Government of carrying out vindictive move against the social activist, various social and rights group have started campaigning for her release amidst the festive season of Durga Puja.

The Jharkhand Police arrested Barla the very day after she was granted bail by a JMFC court in a six-year old case. Now Police has charged her with scores of cases  in connection with causing obstruction to the construction of state-run institutions at Nagri village, 20 kms from here.

Barla has been leading the agitation against ongoing forceful land acquisition by the state government to build the Indian Institute of Management and National University for Study and Research in Law (NUSRL) campuses.

The bail application would be heard by the Court on 29 October.

“Government has hatched a conspiracy to keep Barla behind the bars for a long period; it is very evident by the way Police is functioning. They will slap more cases once against Barla once she gets the bail.” says senior journalist and social activist Faisal Anurag.

From the day she began fighting against the corporate giant Mittal, she has become the enemy of the all political parties and governments. The current Chief Minister, being a Dalaal (broker) of corporate companies, is hell-bent to sabotage the voice of activists, says Anurag.

“I met her in the prison yesterday. She is confident and determined to fight and face the consequences.” he said.

Barla was at the forefront of the agitation against Arcelor Mittal’s proposed steel plant in the state. The $8.9 million project spread over 12,000 acres would have displaced almost 70,000 people from 45 villages.

Gladson Dungdung, another noted activist and a member of Planning Commission of India also sees a conspiracy behind the arrest of Barla. “This is a conspiracy by the Government and arbitrary move by the police.”

He also said that the Government wants her to be in prison until the construction of proposed Law and Management campuses is over at Nagri, where agricultural land is being acquired done forcefully.

“If the Government is in impression that Barla’s arrest would weaken the people’s movement, it’s a fallacy.” he adds.

Several other social activists from across the country have condemned the arrest of Barla. They have demanded government to release Barla immediately and to withdraw all the cases against her.

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