Thursday, July 26, 2012

Dalit Camera: Through Un-Touchable Eyes

Dalit Camera: Through Un-Touchable Eyes One year ago, a Dalit (Arunthathiyar) women Panchayat President was brutally attacked. She did a remarkable job in her Panchayat as a Panchayat President. This was the fourth Dalit Panchayat President who was attacked. She is the only one to survive. The entire Arunthathiyar movement was protesting. I also wanted to contribute to the protest, so I made a documentary [Check the link: Ms.Krishnaveni Panchayat President victim of Caste system]. That was the beginning of what is today known as Dalit Camera. One of the Great Dalit leaders, Mr. Pasupathi Pandian, was brutally murdered in Tamil Nadu. Many Dalits leaders, irrespective of their sub-caste, remarked that Pasupathi Pandian was one among the very few who talked about equality for all. Despite such widely-shared opinions, there are no videos of that great leader to tell us his views (despite which however, I have to say, his contribution to Dalits in Tamil Nadu can never be erased from history). His short brief life can be read in the following link. "I am not a slave and don't make me a slave"- Annan Pasupathi Pandian, a tribute Hence, a question as well as an idea arose: why are such great person’s views and histories not recorded during their lifetime, but so vociferously remembered only once they are dead? Therefore, I thought it is important to record such people’s views and histories. In this, I can demonstrate Prof. Kancha ilaiha’s short biography here. In AP at this juncture, various Ambedkar Statues were desecrated and yet the responses from the Dalit movements were disappointingly few. Though at the beginning there were protests, later they died out. It was very very sad that on the day of Dr.Ambedkar Jayanthi, one of his statues was desecrated. While the Ambedkar Statue was desecrated in AP, dalit and Bahujan leaders were giving press statement which no mainstream media covered fully or extensively. At that point, I recorded the entire press conference and uploaded, to amend the casteist lacuna our mainstream media always exhibits in covering dalit events. Since then, I have started to record and attend many press conferences given by dalits. It was at this time that the Osmania University students were campaigning to serve beef in public place. I took all of their interviews. Osmania University students, especially Sudhershan introduced, and took me to various people on this issue. The ethics behind that was the realization that the food policy enjoyed and practiced in India is one of the major areas which we are not paying any attention to.(Dr.Veena Shatrugna: Indian Scientist has offered nothing...) Next came the Ambedkar cartoon controversy. While the entire left-liberal intelligentsia was snapping at the heels of the Dalit movements, I took a video of Dr. Satyanarayana on Ambedkar Cartoon which really contributed and changed the angle and presuppositions of the discussion. Then in Lakshmipeta 5 dalits were brutally murdered, and Karthik Navayana introduced me to few activists. With their help, I went to the village and took interviews and covered various activities on the issue. It was also at this time when in AP Special Component Plan debate was going on, and many Dalits were not aware of it (which included me too). Hence I decided to take videos explaining what SCP is. Likewise, I have taken videos illuminating other important topics also, such as the Sc/ST Act, etc. One of the very important issues which I wanted to bring to dalit Camera was the Reservation policy, since in internet public spheres like the video-sharing site youtube one finds only anti-reservation arguments. In this growing cyber-dependant age, dalits don’t have much to learn from them. Hence I thought it will be paramount to fill the gap. Also the issue of Caste and Indian judiciary was another important area Dalit Camera covered. We want to categorically stress that Dalit Camera has not contributed anything new to the dalit movement. It just took the videos of activists on the ground and also took interviews of people. In that sense, Dalit camera does a work of a chronicler and that of a postman. In doing so, Dalit camera also learnt a lot from the activists. There are many activists among Dalits who are sold to the mainstream; they have also compromised with their agenda. However, there are many Dalit activists who are sincerely and tirelessly working on the issues. Dalit camera is indebted to them. It is due to their views and opinions recorded on video that people today are appreciating Dalit Camera. These activists are perpetually facing difficulty in mobilizing funds and people for their protest, and to multiply their troubles, they don’t get media attention too. Hence this camera focuses on them. Dalit camera doesn’t deserve more attention than the movement. Another very important lesson we have learnt is from the Dalit magazines. One of the Dalit magazines which are at par with the mainstream media in Tamil Nadu is Dalit Murasu. This magazine has contributed so many things to the Dalit movements in Tamil Nadu. However, this magazine is now under severe financial crisis. The magazine might stop in future if there are no people to support it. Like this, there are so many other Dalit Magazines too. There are too many dalit activists out there bereft of any funding benefits to allow Dalit Camera to feel self-important enough to ask for generous contributions for itself alone. Problem with the present Camera: The camera we use for Dalit camera is an entry-level still camera, where the audio and video cannot be adjusted. Many-a-times, the video which was taken in this camera becomes corrupt. Few problems we constantly face are the corruption of video files, and lack of good audio quality. To achieve good sound quality in this camera, the interviews have be taken outdoor without any background disturbance. Often, we don’t get such a situation. Taking video after the sun goes down becomes a problem (especially lighting). Even if we take the video in a room with lights on then we experience the problem of unwanted echo. Some of the speakers are, obviously, only free at night. Hence, we thought it would be expedient for us to buy a camera with an external mike. The approximate budget for the video camera is Rs 45,000/- (Sony handy cam). How are we Mobilizing Money? We have experienced a dilemma in how to mobilize money for the camera. With lessons learnt from the dalit activists, we have decided to collect money of an amount which can be spared by anyone, of whatever economic means, working out there for the dalit cause, for the camera, because the camera is for them. In its supplementary role of a post-man, Dalit Camera needs only minimum contribution from all, since the movements need a lot more support than the Dalit camera. We are asking for rupees one hundred only from each individual, and not more than that at any cost. The other reason for fixing the financial policy is the expenses will not stop here. Today we might be requiring a Handy Cam with external Mike, tomorrow we might need an external Hard Disk to store all the videos, and a website to make it user friendly. While taking videos we are also getting huge amount of materials which might be useful for many people. Hence we are also planning to have a space in internet to collect and collate all the pamphlets and booklets etc in a database. As a result we also require a website to keep track of the posting and updates. In future, we may also need to get a better internet connection. At present we have three Dalit cameras excluding the present one. Those three will be operating in different states, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and New Delhi. We have to wait and see what will happen in future. Dalit Camera is still at an embryonic stage, and at this juncture, the committee is seriously considering the creation of a sustainable source to allow the Camera to survive, without becoming a burden on anyone. Hence, we have decided to collect only Rs. 100 from each person. If anyone wants to give more than that s/he can contribute on behalf of others. Also we need sustainable money to keep this camera going. At the outset, we thought we will earn through the advertisements Youtube adds to the content. Sadly, Youtube is earning a lot and giving us a pittance, which seems to us to be a clear case of exploitation. Hence we thought it is not worth to use advertisements in the videos.

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