By Nidhi Kinhal
If you associate news and politics with large scale Parliament debates, air-conditioned studios and people in suits and skirts, this show is for you. Khabar Lahariya, India’s only women-run digital rural news network, has been a voice to several “everyday stories of everyday people.’ And its recent The Kavita Show, brings news straight from Bundelkhand.
In her very first episode, Kavita, the Digital Head of Khabar Lahariya, talks about changing wedding traditions in Bundelkhand, even sings a tiny adorable jingle about the erosion of ancient customs, and then, explains how Bollywood songs that objectify women lead to women feeling inhibited at weddings. Anti-Romeo squads, closing down of meat shops, and challenges of women journalists are some of the other issues she covers. In a manner that’s extremely simple and relatable, she uses the familiar to talk about the underlying politics of their lives. In her second, the “lioness’, as she’s rightfully called, outlined the issues the media has been covering, like cricket, GST and Yoga day, and added, “Main toh bhai, zameeni star pe kaam karti hoon, mere mudde yeh [alag] hain.” (Well, I work at the ground-level, so my issues are different.)
In her third and latest episode, she greets us from the national capital, and she couldn’t be more thrilled about it. “Jab main yahaan par aayee, aur maine dekha, toh Bundelkhand aur Dilli kuch maamlon mein ek dum same hain. Dilli ka mausam, dilli ki garmi, dilli ka umas ek dum Bundelkhand ke jaise hai”, she said. (When I arrived here, I realised that Delhi and Bundelkhand have a lot of similarities. The weather, the heat and humidity are just like in Bundelkhand.) Then, she talks about the atmosphere of hatred in both places: “Dilli aur Bundelkhand mein ek tarah ka ghutan bhi hai jo vishesh samudaay ke saath hone waali hinsaa aur bhedbhaav se judaa hua hai.” (There’s also a sense of suffocation in Delhi and Bundelkhand, because of the violence and discrimination against particular communities.)
While from Delhi, she reports the Not In My Name protests post the lynchings, in Bundelkhand, it’s the Dalits’ response to Yogi Adityanath distributing soaps and shampoos in Khushinagar to ‘cleanse’ them. “Kis tarah ki ghatiya soch hai?!” (What kind of discriminating and disgusting mindset is this?!), she questions. Talking about hate or pride-driven messages on WhatsApp and Facebook, she also makes us aware of how even on social media, “is tarah ki message jo chetaavni ki bhaashaa mein likhe gaye hain, na, yeh sirf gundagardi ka mahaul banaate hain aur dar paida karte hain.” (These kinds of messages written in a threatening tone, create fear and an atmosphere of hooliganism.)
There is strong dissent from people from all walks of life in her show; critiquing the government’s policy implementation is treated as a citizen’s right and duty. People discuss the inefficiency of the Saansad Adarsh Gram Yojana, one of the men interviewed even strongly says, “Sansad aaye toh hum patak patak kar ke maarein. Ki tum ho kya cheez!”. They also send in their problems and thoughtful solutions. For instance, people who were dissatisfied or skeptical about the GST said it would have been more helpful if the government had trained people to understand what it entails, before rolling it out.
This is the kind of participative engagement we need more of, especially owing to the fact that mainstream media hardly discusses issues directly felt by most people in the country. It is bold, but at the same time, it is unassuming. We could all learn a thing or two from The Kavita Show; watch the latest episode, here.