Why is The Caravan exploiting individuals from marginalised communities?

The Caravan

What damned piece of crap is this diversity thing that ‘The Caravan’ is parading? They want someone from the fishing community along coastal and river banks it seems! Should the candidate also be eating surmai fry 3 times a day or what? And supposedly someone from a Tribal community in NE too.

What ‘The Caravan’ essentially is trying to do is pick and choose the most valuable journalist from these communities and benefit from their lived experiences and the knowledge they have gathered through their lifetime. Which is why the ‘diversity’ demand’ is so very specific. And it is something their Brahmin-Savarna journalists who otherwise occupy an overwhelming number of positions can never contribute in.

While exploiting and benefiting from the knowledge of these individuals from marginalised communities, The Caravan is not even offering them a job in exchange. But a mere fellowship which is just a better word for an internship. So in all likelihood, they will only be paid peanuts, if they are paid that is. But The Caravan can parade this initiative and present itself as a very woke publication. Which it is already doing.

This performance by The Caravan is in itself very casteist. They are able to perform this shallow act and earn plenty brownie points because of the unequal caste structure. They can keep the Brahmin-Savarna monopoly intact at one end and be applauded for being woke and offering diversity breadcrumbs at the other end. And more importantly, the funding opportunities of these media houses are greatly improved with such diversity stunts. Which is probably the primary reason they are doing it.

But The Caravan is not alone in this. When Rega Jha was the editor at Buzzfeed, she put out a notice saying that she wants to make a video with Dalit women and was looking for volunteers. And that’s all the description said. ‘We want Dalit women’. The age, qualification, expertise or experience of the Dalit women didn’t matter at all. They just had to be Dalit and women. However, poor Jha couldn’t find any Dalit women I suppose, because that video never came out. And there is this another digital media house which parades itself as a feminist organization that has been unethically using its gossip networks to find out the caste identity of journalists who are speculated to be from the Dalit community and offering them roles.

What these media organisations are doing is very, very casteist. Real diversity is when people from all sections of the society naturally feel at ease to apply and get jobs without any bias. Handpicking SC/ST/OBC candidates and giving them journalist roles that are linked to their own caste is not ‘diversity’ but just the perpetuation of ‘caste labour’.

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Rajesh Rajamani is a writer and filmmaker. He writes on cinema, caste, gender and the intersection of the three. His writings have been published in The News Minute, HuffPost India, First Post and Newslaundry. His analytical essays on Tamil cinema attempt to offer perspectives that are often missed out in mainstream writing. In particular, they try to understand and unravel how caste plays an important role in constructing cinematic narratives and its effect on film criticism and consumption. He won the RedInk award under the ‘Lifestyle & Entertainment’ category for the year 2018. He holds an engineering degree from Madras University and a post graduate degree in management from IIM Indore.

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