Reporters Without Orders Ep 127: How a drum came to signify protest amongst the Madigas, Assam floods, and more

A reporters’ podcast about what made news and what shouldn’t have.

WrittenBy:NL Team
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For this week’s episode, host Snigdha Sharma is joined by Supriti David, a new recruit at Newslaundry and Jahnavi Uppuleti, an independent journalist who writes on caste, politics, and culture.

The episode begins with the trio sharing bizarre news stories. While Jahnavi talks about a repulsive story involving a sadhu and his saliva, and Supriti shares the story of a drug-smuggling cat, Snigdha talks about how her bizarre news story is about how bizarre news itself has become in India.

Following this, Jahnavi gives listeners a brief introduction to her report on the Dappu, a musical instrument that holds immense socio-political significance amongst not just the Madigas, but the Dalit community at large. Talking about how the Dappu is perceived as an ‘untouchable’s instrument’ that continues to be associated with ‘shame’ by other communities, she says, “Many avoid playing or acknowledging it in public, to avoid unnecessary stares and complications with upper caste communities.”

The discussion then moves on to Assam floods and Supriti’s article on the difference between the coverage of the calamity by mainstream media and local media. “Local papers and news channels gave the tragedy a human face,” she says.

This and a lot more as they talk about what made news, what didn’t, and what shouldn’t have.

Tune in!

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Jahnavi

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గడప— I dedicate this poem to Thimareddypalle Hanumavva, Sanjeev Gumpenapalli, and mana mandi of Dharavi. I often demand to be told about our women, your amma, your avva, your Pedavva, their families, how are they related to us, which village do they come from. There is nothing interesting about the retelling of useless gallantry of generous tea sipping men sitting on the bakda. We are strangers to each other; part of a history we share, untouched. This other, for me, is my Pedavva (paternal great grandmother), Gopal, Begum, Madiga, and many marginalized communities in Dharavi. And for them, I, a madiga queer, the other. Like any dalit literature, this poem is a protest, with demand for acceptance, and annihilation of an instituted norms of many forms of abuse we are victims of. The flood demands structural collapse and innovation. The flood dreams, but by bounded to its social reality. This break of flood metaphorically does not do justice to our egalitarian vision, considering the dense diversity of communities living in Dharavi. How differently did the flood of 26th July 2005 affect people living in the slums and chawls ? Who were affected the most by the diseases that it brought ? Did the levelling up of the rooms widen the gap among us ? How that widened our collective thresholds ? Is this all Dharavi development project about ? Abandoning a community for building a home ? Who is safe in this home ? Who are not and why ? Where does an attempt at collapsing the home lead us to ? Who turned Mithi into a gutter that it is today ? How has love as a skill profited anyone ? The answers available to me aren't the best to rely on, because the questions reflect the most oxymoronic odds of our ontological conditions. Only poetry gives me space to express Gadapa, a contested territory, a feeling, a life itself for some. Gadapa is also home, also threshold. Kādee is also slum, also a funeral site, also a river, Mithi. Pain that accompanies breaking is palpable. My Pedavva cried!

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