Dhenkanal: Many media outlets have emerged in recent years, but most are using the freedom they have only for their own purposes. Social inequalities can be reduced if the media really works for the well-being of the socially and economically weaker sections. In order for that to happen, it is necessary to recall once again the reasons why Dr BR Ambedkar set up newspapers and his foresight towards the marginalized sections and Dalits. Experts from academia and the media industry highlighted such issues during a virtual panel discussion on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the launch of ‘Mooknayak’, at the Eastern Regional campus of the Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC), Dhenkanal on Friday, 16 October 2020.
Marking the centenary of Marathi fortnightly newspaper titled Mooknayak; IIMC Dhenkanal had organized an online panel discussion on ‘Towards an Equal Society’. The panelists, Dr Sudhir Gavhane, Vice-Chancellor MGM University Aurangabad; Vijay Satokar, Regional Director, IIMC Amravati; Dr Jhumpa Mukherjee, assistant professor, St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata; Tpan Mishra, former news editor, The Samaja, Cuttack discussed a range of relevant issues including Mooknayak’s role in making a more equal society and how it relevant to the present situation.
Giving special attention to people’s perception of the newspaper Mooknayak, Dr Sudhir Gavhane, Vice-Chancellor MGM University Aurangabad said, “Ambedkar was not only the voice of the Dalits but he was also raising the voice of the establishment of a true democracy across the country. He was constantly trying to bring about a socio-economic democracy across the country. He opined that the caste system was creating a rift from an economic point of view. He asserted that equality can only be achieved if everyone has the same opportunity in all areas. Unfortunately, there were cracks in many parts of the country. So he continued his fight for social democracy, social justice, and economic rights. All of this reflected in the newspapers he was associated with. At the moment, his thoughts were completely relevant. Equality in the country is not possible as long as there is only media coverage about politicians, influential people, and business organizations.” Therefore, the media and everyone involved need to pay special attention to this,” he said.
Joining as one of the speaker Vijay Satokar, Regional Director, IIMC Amaravati said, “There are many issues and problems that society is facing now. There are also people who are being deprived of their rights. People are becoming more and more educated. Technology is improving day by day. In such a situation, the media does not seem to be paying much attention to presenting the problems of the deprived people or the oppressed.”
“As long as there is no social democracy, there is no justification for political democracy,” Dr. Jhumpa Mukherjee, assistant professor, St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata said. Fundamental rights, equality, etc. cannot come by the law alone. Instead, everyone should be aware of this. The media also has a strong role to play in this. There is a need to present the problems of others as their own problems. The voice of those deprived of their rights at the time was the ‘Mooknayak’ newspaper. The newspaper focused on women’s issues apart from caste issues. Many problems still remain unresolved. In such a situation, political democracy has no benefit. Social democracy must come first.
Tapan Mishra, former news editor, The Samaja, Cuttack said, “There is a lot of difference between the media outlets before and after the independence of India. At the time, media outlets were open for the purpose of gaining independence, nation-building and presenting people’s problems. And now most media outlets are opening for financial gain. At the same time, many important issues are not discussed in the media. In particular, the number of people deprived of their rights is much lower than before. The issue of equality seems to be only constitutional. In fact, many people are still being deprived of their rights. Besides, we need to pay close attention to this important issue.”
In a speech welcoming the guests, Professor Mrinal Chatterjee, Regional Director, IIMC Dhenkanal said, According to statistics and currents situations, we are not actually moving towards an equal society. People are still struggling to open up their voice and there are so many divisions in the country. Ambedkar worked hard through his journals to shape the differences between human beings. He tried to solve the problem by presenting the voices of the oppressed”. The newspaper played an important role in promoting oppressed politics across the country, especially in Maharashtra, he added
Mooknayak (The Leader of the Voiceless), is a fortnightly Marathi newspaper started by Dr.BR Ambedkar on January 31, 1920, with an aim to pen down his view on matters such as Swaraj, the education of the ‘untouchables’, and the evils of untouchability. Mooknayak has been in circulation for three years. ‘Prabudha Bharat’, ‘Bahishkrit Bharat’, and ‘Janata’ were the other newspapers started by Dr. Ambedkar.
The e-panel discussion was moderated by Sambit Pal, assistant professor of IIMC Dhenkanal, and culminated with the vote of thanks by another assistant professor Dr Jyoti Prakash Mohapatra. The session was attended by media industry experts, media academicians, research scholars, faculty of the IIMC, and the students.