Sunday, August 23, 2015

Vernacular Indian Media and Bigotry

It could be said that traditional literature in Indian vernacular languages is overwhelmingly castiest and sexist. So, I agree with some Dalit intellectuals' argument that fellow Dalits should embrace English to escape the castiest indoctrination of the vernacular literature. I suppose that should be true for most of the non-Brahmin castes too.

However, in the last century we have seen radical ideas becoming mainstream in India because of their success in European society, even though those ideas always existed in Indian society but losing out to the castiest ideas and leaving us in dark ages. And these ideas came to be represented in vernacular Indian languages too.

While I was growing up I read both liberated and bigoted literature in Kannada. If I look back, I feel, liberal literature was more mainstream than the bigoted ones. Of course, there were mainstream bigoted authors too but in sheer numbers liberal Kannada authors held sway. So, Kannada was becoming the language of Kannadigas irrespective of caste. However, now I wonder whether it's true any more, especially in newspaper industry.

In my region (coastal Karnataka), I would say there were moderate Kannada newspapers along with rabid Hindutva ones. However, over time, I observed that many of the Kannada newspapers were moderate in the sense they were moderately bigoted.

They show communal prejudices and promote conservative and pseudo-scientific (which in Chesterton's words represents true India) ideas. In fact, there was an attempt by Christians in that region to come out with a 'secular' newspaper to counter the parochial view of these papers (which are run by Hindus). However, I don't think it has been successful. A left leaning newspaper is not even a mainstream one. In fact, a columnist with Hindutva views became quite popular in some other region of Karnataka and got elected to Indian parliament.

I wonder whether a tiring liberal movement, which reads and watches mostly English media, has created a vacuum in the vernacular media to be exploited by bigots. I suppose this is true in Pakistan too. I've heard Urdu newspapers are generally bigoted there.

It appears as if native Indian languages once on the way to become the voice of reason have relapsed into becoming the tool of bigots.

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