Gujarati Dalit Leader Mewani in Bangalore

Jignesh is an interesting person. With a diploma in Journalism and a degree in the same subject from Mumbai University, Jignesh -one would expect to- should be a paid member of a media house.jignesh_cu

But Jignesh prefers something else – to repay the perpetrators of casteism and its dehumanising practices, in the same coin.

The young dalit (the oppressed caste) leader is the beacon of hope for the millions of dalits in India, who have been isolated by ‘upper caste’ Hindus for the last 4,000 years. These marginalised continue to be oppressed and denied of social privileges even today by the right wing Hindu organisations in the name of ‘purity’ and ‘supremacy’. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a member of such a right wing association called RSS or National Volunteer Association – the mother of all right wingers in the country, after whom the term ‘Sangh Parivar’ or ‘Association Family’ coined. Unfortunately, many well-meaning Hindus as well as the blind followers of these cults, don’t realise the harm these self-proclaimed ‘representatives’ of Hinduism to their religion and a majority of Hindus themselves.

Mewani was in the news in mid-September 2016 in Gujarat. After a few upper caste Hindus beat up some ‘untouchables’ or the dalits for skinning a dead cow (thinking that they had killed their ‘cow mother’) in Una, Mewani took charge of the dalit community. The tens of thousands of lower caste Hindus took pledge not to lift any carcass of animals from the upper castes. Ever since, they have not! Peeved by this, and suffering  the ignominy of having their dead cow in the vicinity, an upper caste family beat up a lower caste family, for refusing to lift the carcass, in the last week of September.jignesh_gauri

PM Modi visited Gujarat in mid-September, to impress upon its deserting voters. But then, before he could land in Ahmedabad airport, police arrested Mewani, fearing backlash for ill-treating the dalits. And Mewani became more popular!

In the last two days, Mewani has been in Bangalore. On 10 October, Mewani visited St Josephs College to address socially-conscious activists. Though it is holiday season, and the College was closed, the Xavier Hall was full, to listen to and interact with Mewani! Such is the fame of this young leader.

Gauri Lankesh, the  activist editor moderated the  session.

Research and the pressure cooker

2 Oct. Everytime you think, ‘after this one work, I will be free,’ more work comes up. And busier you get!

With politics all around and I in search peace, I expected to be much freer this academic year and focus on research – both the College research and my own personal research.

But something triggered a landslide. This May, one international journal (SAGE) sent its Call for Papers (CfP) on social media. And I was quick to respond with an abstract. Just as I was completing this paper abstract, another international journal came up with a CfPs too! It was on New Media Technologies in Higher Education. Another of favourite topics. And I could not resist the temptation.


My second abstract required me to collect field data, traveling to various parts of Karnataka. So, to utilise and to exploit the time and resources I would have to invest on New Media and Higher Education project to the hilt, I thought of another research project on social media and relationships with friends and family to go with my second plan.

And I started reading and taking down notes, discussing with my colleagues in the Department and the College. And the classes for the new academic year started. I was to teach two four-credit modules, in addition to teaching a seminar for a class of 30. That was too much! You how I make my students present seminars? Make them read, and read, and read! And everytime discuss their progress with me, and then revise plans and work. Only upon four signed sittings and an additional demo of the same by them, are they permitted to present their seminars. No doubt, most of my students love their seminars, even though many of them don’t like the grind it entails. No doubt, the discussions and debates they generate can put anyone on cloud nine!research2

In spite of all this melee, all was going on well. Just then, another local college requested me to present a paper on impact of social media on society. Though I knew where it was coming from (the man who contacted me didn’t know me, and he was tipped by a politician). They wanted to publish the papers, he told me. Yet, I accepted the request, since I was already researching on social media and family and friends.

Gradually it became clear this college seminar was very different from the typical seminars, and chalk and cheese vis-a-vis my social media project. So, extra work! Never mind, I said. “I will make it!’

Come September, and our Department annual conference (MediaCon-2016) team was worried that they were not getting sufficient abstracts for their planned conference in November. Then, I said, why not I? I have presented papers at other college seminars and submitted to others’ journals; why not to mine own?

So, another paper on Media  and Political Transformation. This time I decided to write in the area of my expertise – films. That made four papers! And two more of my students have been keen on reworking on their well-prepared seminar papers. It’s a good idea, me thought. Why not work with them? I could rework. I am yet to begin my work these two – that means, working afresh.

In the meantime, someone got a bright idea – why not St Josephs College apply to be upgraded to Deemed University -DU? Though someone else was put in charge of the DU committee, it was shifted to me. Now, that was a huge job!

A few weeks into the committee, two committees -masquerading as one- came looking for me. Did I have a choice? Did I give in without a thought to myself? Probably, yes!

In any case, these Committees were top priorities with deadlines – that is the problem when some managements appoint you. They get ideas very late, but deadlines too soon. And these took almost all my time they took away all my time and energy – from mid-July to late August 2016, with no help coming from anyone to whom it concerned – except from three faculty of my own College – Drs Etienne Rassendren, Michael Rajamathi, and Ronald Mascarenhas. There was Dr Cheriyan with his wholehearted support, though he was not in the DU committee.

After I submitted the reports – there was some relief. So, I got back to my research. And then we started by encouraging our College faculty to apply for College-funded seed money for research (which also we completed the formalities of shortlisting, finding internal and external referees, presentations, and sanctioning!) One more – we planned (are working on) a research workshop for our faculty, in the first week of October! Thank God, we have some good and zealous faculty who have been solid supports and shouldering the responsibilities.

Last week I managed to complete a paper on New Media and Higher Education; submitted too. Within next two days, I presented the paper on impact of social media on society. That was sort of a ‘ok’ project given the confusion of that seminar. I don’t think publishing this work interests me!

With two down, and this odd-semester in the College over, I am looking eagerly for these few ‘revision holidays’ for students – during which I can focus on some of my planned research work.

It is pressure cooker. No doubt, in a climate in which people simply don’t understand research, its exigencies, and implications, and think education is nothing but having teachers dictate their teachers’ and ‘grand’-teachers’ notes collected at Masters level, what more can you do? May be repeat, ‘research!’

Does Bollywood normalise stalking?

A defence lawyer in Australia successfully claimed that his client’s aggressive pursuit of women was ‘quite normal behaviour’ for Bollywood fans. Sadly, it’s all too easy to concur

An inspirational tale … Darr: A Violent Love Story
An inspirational tale … Darr: A Violent Love Story, starring Juhi Chawla and Shah Rukh Khan. Photograph: PR

In Australia, a 32-year-old Indian security guard has escaped a jail term after his attorney argued his harassment of women with unwanted texts, messages and personal advances was a by-product of his film fanaticism. What for some might be seen as stalking was, for Bollywood aficionados it was argued, “quite normal behaviour” as the movies encourage the idea that a woman will eventually fall in love with a man if he pursues her hard enough.

Quite a contention, yet it holds cultural weight. Rachel Dwyer, a professor in Indian cinema at SOAS, University of London, points out that the “often relentless” nature of the Bollywood leading man’s pursuit can be tracked through decades of examples, which she examines in her book Bollywood’s India. In the 60s, for example, screen heroes such as Shammi Kapoor, a pretty-boy famous for his cheeky on-screen persona, “would flirt and dance in front of the heroine, who initially rejected him but was won over when she found out his real worth”.


Yet this peacocking has recently morphed into something sinister – and, moreover, still in the mainstream. In Yash Chopra’s Darr: A Violent Love Story (1993), Rahul (Shah Rukh Khan) is obsessed with Kiran (Juhi Chawla), who is engaged to Sunil, a navy officer. Rahul carves her name on his chest with a knife,…

Tamil film industry glorifies the stalking of women, activists say

Makers of ‘Kollywood’ movies urged to rethink plotlines rather than depicting the act as an ‘acceptable way to woo a woman’

People watch a film at drive-in cinema in Chennai, southern India
People watch a film at a drive-in cinema in Chennai, southern India. Photograph: Jonathan Torgovnik/Getty Images

“Never give up on true love,” reads the tagline for Raanjhanaa, a 2013 Bollywood hit starring the Tamil film star Dhanush. Its plot is standard fare, particularly for Kollywood, the Chennai film industry: boy meets girl, falls in love, gets rejected – and pursues her anyway.

But activists in southern India, home to the country’s largest Tamil communities, now argue that plotlines such as Raanjhanaa’s are not just cliched: they are ….

Why Facebook is public enemy number one for newspapers, and journalism

Facebook has emerged as newspapers’ public enemy number one. Hardly a day passes in which there is no negative article about the social media website that is luring away “our” readers and advertisers.

In the past couple of weeks, there has been something of an overload of criticism on a range of topics.

There was the blocking of the image of a girl fleeing a napalm attack in Vietnam. It generated outrage from, among others, Norway’s prime minister Erna Solberg in the Guardian, Jane Fae in the Daily Telegraph and Dominic Lawson in the Sunday Times (an excellent piece).

Facebook’s tax affairs have come under the microscope. Questions were raised about Facebook’s attack on ad-blocking software (as if that isn’t in the interest of every news outlet). And there have been plenty of critical articles about Facebook’s news feeds, notably its “trending topics” feature.

It is argued that this narrows users’ news agenda by advising (or “telling”) them what to read. Evidently, people are bound to follow the herd. According to a Pew Research Center study released in May, 66% of Facebook users get news through the site.

These choices are made by algorithms, which can monitor users’ interests and then “feed” them what it believes they wish to read while filtering out material. ….

‘Censorship of the internet is harmful to dialogue’

Sunetra Sen Narayan and Shalini Narayanan analyse the growth of new media in Digital India in their latest book titled ‘India Connected’

Shalini Narayanan (left); and Sunetra Sen Narayan

Shalini Narayanan (left); and Sunetra Sen Narayan

Editors Sunetra Sen Narayan and Shalini Narayanan analyse the growth of new media in Digital India from a broad communications and interdisciplinary perspective in their latest book titled, India Connected, published by Sage Publications.

The book critically examines the growth of new media in India and offers a perspective on the opportunities and challenges it poses to governance, development, businesses as well as in social marketing efforts.

Narayan has more than 25 years of experience in communications, including in advertising, print journalism, documentary film production and teaching. She is currently associate professor at the Indian Institute of Mass Communication. Narayanan, D.Phil, is an independent media consultant and trainer with two and a half decades of experience in the government and non-government sectors.

In an email interview with Mint, they talk about the purpose of writing the book, the relationship between social media and political movements and whether new media can find a sustainable business model going forward. Edited excerpts:

What was the purpose of writing this book and mapping the impact of new media?

The purpose of writing this book was to present research-based perspectives on new media going beyond anecdotal reportage. The trigger was when we tried to locate a book that had a thorough grounding in theory and was rigorous in its approach to new media in India, and failed. We found that there was no single work that had discussed and analysed the impact of new media in India. The need for such a work was evident given the way new media has transformed social landscapes. Our endeavour was to document different aspects of the change and we feel this book could lead to many other studies on the impact of new media. This is a beginning.

What is the biggest change that new media has brought about in India?

Each time we connect with people sitting continents away on WhatsApp or Facebook, each time a farmer gets an update on weather on his humble feature phone, each time we book a ticket to travel without visiting any booking office, each time a young girl sitting in a remote area of the country gets a message that she can come and collect her Voter ID card locally, we are witness to change brought about by new media. The stories are endless—connecting with celebrities, high-ranking government officials, getting a grievance resolved in a matter of hours—all reflect the changes in our lives by this media. There are many changes as has been documented by the authors in our book. Fundamentally new media has changed the rules of interaction.

Will this new emerging media landscape find a sustainable business model?

As far as India is concerned, business houses having cross-media ownerships are thriving in the new media landscape, using new media as yet another tool to further their content. E-commerce is flourishing. Start-ups like ScoopWhoop, The Better India and many more have shown, in a limited way, the viability of businesses catering only to those on the new media platforms. However, this is an important question and will need more research.

In the economics of the new media world what are the biggest challenges that one needs to deal with?

Researchers have theorized that the impact of media goes much further than just in terms of its uses and gratifications and relates to other social institutions, to the economy and to the formation of ideologies even. In the absence of restrictions on cross-media ownership, the one big challenge would be preserving diversity of voices in our media. Another aspect that needs attention is the collection of huge amount of user information by new media organisations which raises the question of privacy expectations and quality of content. Given also the centrality of telecom to the spread of new media, spectrum pricing and distribution are another area of concern. What would also be of keen interest would be to see how the government’s intervention to bridge the digital divide fares in the near future as equity and access to new media are central to the economics of the new media world.

Social media and political movements seem to intersect across multiple chapters in this book. What makes the two so intrinsically linked?

Studies have shown that political movements have their beginnings in informal networks in which media plays a vital role. Among the crucial elements that help create a social movement are mobilising structures, political opportunities and framing processes of which media forms a big part. Among media, social media with their characteristics of multi-modality, mobility and instantaneity make their appeal not only very personal to the public, the two-way communication enabled by social media raises the profile of participants to activists.

While we must beware of clicktivism or slactivism, the ‘disruptive’ power of social media cannot be underestimated, as pointed out by media scholar Robin Jeffrey. To quote Rheinegold, convergent technologies like the mobile phone and the internet have led people to have “political collective action with people they weren’t able to organise before, in places they weren’t able to organise before and at a speed they weren’t able to muster before”. This phenomenon may manifest itself in different ways when it interacts with social and political factors; it may mobilize people for revolutionary movements (e.g. Arab spring, Nirbhaya movement in India, Jan lokpal) but it may also mobilize people due to confusion and fear and may cause large scale panic and anarchy (e.g. exodus of north-east Indians from Bengaluru, global recruitment and promotion by ISIS).

However, social media cannot take the entire blame for a political movement, it only helps in amplifying the voice of individuals and traditional media messages for a cause to a larger public rather than creating them in the first place. The other aspect to keep in consideration is that social media is equally accessible to those looking to foment social or political unrest; preventing their misuse is an issue that needs urgent thought.

What’s the impact of censorship on the internet?

The sheer volume of internet users in the country makes fair and effective regulation of new media a difficult task. That said, censorship or regulating content on the internet is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, censorship on the internet tends to muddle the understanding of the scope of free speech as there is no consistent standard for when material is to be censored. Of course, it is harmful to dialogue because it removes content that may have provided an important perspective to an issue. On the other hand, because the internet is so open and accessible, censorship is often justified on the ground that one cannot be sure of the effect of allowing certain content to be viewed.

However, in India, the tendency to reactively regulate new media has been seen to be arbitrary in its approach. Our framework of regulation is in dire need of a revamp. The knocking out of Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2002 by the Supreme Court last year was a wake-up call for the government.

In its judgement, the highest court of the land said the provision was found to be “vague, arbitrary, contrary to the citizen’s right to know, and easily subject to abuse.” Walking the fine line between an overarching regulatory scheme that may curtail civil and political rights and leaving the internet to self-regulate which again may prove ineffective, is the challenge for the government. We suggest that an extensive consultative process with big and small industry players and concerned citizens could be the way forward. Given the complexities surrounding the development of new technologies, the going will not be easy.

For more, read-

Water violence, and Karnataka ‘bundh’

Now the Cauvery controversy is back in currency. Political parties like BJP and Janata Dal (JD) are happy that there is a huge political controversy, which they can harness to gather votes irrespective  of the lives of the people harmed by the violence unleashed by the anti-social elements.

This is not to say that the Congress party is any better; they are politicians, they too are equally selfish and motivated. It is just that the onus is on them to follow the Supreme Court directive – to release 12 cusec of water every day till 20 September 2016.  They have (neither at the Federal/ Central nor at the State level) done anything to sort out the issue amicably.

One of the questions asked since yesterday is till when would this ‘bundh‘/strike be? Will have College/ classes/ school on Wednesday? Or this entire week?

The answer is YES! The Chief Minister of Karnataka, Mr Siddharamaiah has assured that the public transport and offices/ schools/ colleges will function normally from Wednesday.

The state and the common wo/man  has suffered much, beyond explanation.  Already two men have died; thousands of children and women were inconvenienced, stranded mid-way between their homes and schools/ colleges/ offices.  Billions of dollars worth business has taken a hit because of this bundh in Karnataka and especially in its IT-hub Bangalore. Crores of rupees worth public and private property has been destroyed. That is the state of anarchy in a democracy like ours. Those with muscle/ goonda power rule the roost.

I hope, we will return to normalcy on Wednesday, as promised by the Karnataka state political leaders.

TEN becomes eleven; Sony buys Zee’s sports channels

ZEE sells Ten Sports to Sony for $385 mn


ZEE sells Ten Sports to Sony for $385 mn

With this sale, Zee has essentially exited the sports broadcast business, making the Indian market a duopoly between SPN and Star India

Urvi Malvania  |  Mumbai  September 1, 2016

Marking the second largest deal in media and entertainment in recent times, Networks India (SPN) has bought media firm Enterprises (ZEEL)-owned bouquet of channels for $385 million (approximately Rs 2,600 crore) in an all-cash deal.

With this, SPN has cemented itself as a strong competitor to Star India, increasing its bouquet strength to nine channels in the country. Star India operates eight sports channels under the Star Sports brand.