Dalit newspaper strives for social justice in Bundelkhand

By Sanjay Pandey, Lucknow

Sheer determination and hard work has earned this small group of women international recognition

Launched in 2002 as a modest four-page newspaper in Uttar Pradesh's backward Bundelkhand region, ‘Khabar Lahariya’ (waves of news), bagged the prestigious UNESCO Literacy Award.

The news paper is in a local dialect using Devanagiri script and run by semi-literate Dalit, Muslim and Kol women and has been creating real waves in the impoverished and parched lands of Bundelkhand.

The all women newspaper, a weekly, which now has eight pages and employs 20 plus ‘semi-literate’ women, symbolises the struggle against social discrimination. ‘‘We had to face great difficulties in bringing out and running the newspaper. The people from the upper caste did not like it and our reporters had a tough time in gathering information’’, recalls its editor Meera.

Interestingly barring Meera, who is a graduate, all the other staff is semi-literate. ‘‘Our reporters do not find any difficulty in their work as the newspaper is in Bundeli dialect’’, she told Deccan Herald from Chitrakoot.

The work of reporting, page making and even selling the newspapers is done by these 20-plus women. ‘‘With our limited resources, we can not afford to sell the newspaper through hawkers. The reporters go from one village to another to sell it’’, Meera said. ‘‘In fact it helped the reporters ton get first hand news from the villages; especially the problems they face and about the implementation of welfare schemes'', she added.

Meera attributes the success of the newspaper to the dialect in which it is published. ‘‘It is easy for the people of the region to understand the Bundeli language’’, she points out.

No wonder ‘Khabar Lahariya’ today has a readership of 25, 000. The number of copies printed stand at four thousand and it is sold for Rs. two in as many as 400 villages in Chitrakoot and Banda districts of Bundelkhand.

A Delhi-based NGO Nirantar had extended help to bring out the newspaper after a newsletter ‘Mahila Dakiya’ by an NGO Mahila Samakhya stopped publication in 1999.
The newspaper now is getting government and private advertisements also, which has helped to sustain it, Meera said. The newspaper has won the prestigious UNESCO King Sejong Literacy Prize 2009. The award would be presented at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris in September.

Meera says that the award signifies ‘victory of women’s power’. She is now making plans to start publication of the newspaper from some other districts of the region as well. With its main focus on local issues, Khabar Lahariya exposed the Tendu leaves scam. Its reports were followed by many state level Hindi dailies.

Deccan Herald


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