New Delhi— The efforts of The Mooknayak to voice the opinions of the most vulnerable sections of society received another boost when a Channel News Asia Documentary titled "Insight 2023/2024 - Caste Conflict And Consciousness" featured its founder and editor-in-chief, Meena Kotwal. Kotwal is seen discussing how her upbringing in a Dalit-Muslim dominated colony named after Dr. B.R. Ambedkar prevented her from encountering the reality of caste-based discrimination until she landed a job at the prestigious international media.
The 34-year-old founder of The Mooknayak reveals that she was the only Dalit to be recruited, and that too on a contract. "Only I was on a contract. Not anyone else," says Kotwal in the 46-minute documentary. She further reveals that she was subjected to caste-based inquiries at her news organization headquartered in London, and unsavory references were made to Mayawati and Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. Summing up her experience in mainstream media, she says, "If a Dalit is vocal about their rights and the atmosphere around them, then he or she will not be hired at all."
Talking about the formation of The Mooknayak, she says, "I was sure that I only wanted to work on caste and gender issues. Right now, The Mooknayak is doing a very good job."
It is to be noted that this is not the first time that The Mooknayak has been featured in international media. The New York Times, Washington Post, Deutsche Welle, Voice of America are some of the international media houses that have recognized the work of The Mooknayak and the struggles of its founder Meena Kotwal.
"Insight 2023/2024 - Caste Conflict And Consciousness" also features other intellectuals and politicians from the Dalit community. Professor Vivek Kumar, Head of the Department of Sociology at Jawaharlal Nehru University, who appears in the documentary, delineates the caste system by saying, "The dominant classes—the Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and even the Other Backward Classes who own lands want Dalits to continue serving them."
Chandrashekhar Azad, Co-founder and President of the Bhim Army, features in the film and notes, "Violence against Dalits is happening in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. Madhya Pradesh is on top in terms of atrocities, followed by Rajasthan. Madhya Pradesh is ruled by BJP, while Rajasthan is ruled by Congress. It means that the governments are changing, but the mindset of the people in administration and people in power is not changing."
Another Dalit journalist who appears in the film is Sanjeev Chandan, editor of Streekal, who points out the nuances of caste discrimination and says, "The discrimination is often very subtle and sometimes invisible, and you cannot comprehend it through an upper-caste lens."
Satish Kumar from the Centre of Dalit Rights recounts the experience of caste discrimination in Jaipur, saying, "I was denied a room on rent when the landlord came to know about my caste. Based in Jaipur, Satish says, 'Rajasthan is a feudal state, and even when we are traveling in a bus, the passenger next to us wants to know about our caste."
The 46-minute and 17-second documentary sheds light on the condition of the Dalit community ahead of the Assembly polls in Rajasthan and the General Elections in 2024, highlighting the caste atrocities on Dalits and the discrimination they face at every level. The film documents cases of, among others, Inder Meghwal and Jeetendra Meghwal, victims of caste-based violence in the poll-bound state of Rajasthan. Inder Meghwal of Jalore district was allegedly killed when he drank water from a pitcher meant for upper castes, while Jeetendra Meghwal was killed in Pali district of the state for wearing nice clothes. The documentary uses re-enactments of the incidents to familiarize viewers with the context of the cases it is documenting. The documentary is also shot in Bareilly of Uttar Pradesh, where Sachin, a Dalit, was killed allegedly for not offering sweets to upper castes after the birth of his child.
CNA, a Singapore-based international media organization owned by Mediacorp, the national public broadcaster of Singapore, featured The Mooknayak and its founder and editor-in-chief, Meena Kotwal, in the documentary titled "Insight 2023/2024 - Caste Conflict And Consciousness.