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CRs must work to end caste discrimination in South Asia

Community radio has a significant role in giving voice to the voiceless, poor and deprived people, and also as a means to raise their concerns in the public sphere.

The role of community radio is to serve deprived and excluded communities and strengthen the process of social democratization. Community radio stations contribute to progressive transformation of the society which is necessary to establish and strengthen democracy. Therefore AMARC has defined community radio (CR) as a mouthpiece of the marginalized people. In South Asian Region, there is a huge population of Dalits. They have historically been facing challenges to be a human being in the Hindu as well as Muslim societies. Dalits are politically excluded, economically deprived and exploited. They are vic- tims of the feudal labour system, culturally discriminated and treated as untouchables. They are fighting for justice and equity for long time in the South Asian continent.

The population of Dalits in India is around 17% which comprises more than 20 billion. Similarly 13% (as per government census) population of Nepal are Dalits; Bangladesh, Pakistan, Bhutan also have a big population of Dalits who are fighting for a dignified life and their socio-political, cultural and educational rights. Constitutionally, only Nepal had recognized the Dalit community and it became a political and social agenda. Later, India also recognized Dalits as Schedule Caste (SC). However, this is not the case in other countries. Dalit community is the most excluded vulnerable, deprived and in many ways among the voiceless in the South Asian region.

In South Asia, community radio has been mushrooming, but it has not paid serious attention towards the Dalit community. As CR is considered as a voice of the voiceless, Dalit, indigenous and other excluded and minority community must be their primary target groups. However, CRs of the region have failed to identify the real voiceless people and serve their interest. Objectively, CR is responsible to main- stream the voice of people, and enable participatory or inclusive democracy where justice and freedom exist, empower people.

To act as per its principle and objectives, CR must be responsible to end caste-based discrimination and untouchability along with other social issues. In the context of Nepal, the agenda of Dalits has become an important political and social agenda. Only nine per cent on the ACORAB board are dalits. However, very few are in decision-making positions as chairperson, secretary and treasurer. Eleven Dalits, so far, have held the positions of station managers and eight out of them are still working in the same position. However, the dalit community itself has started to establish CR in Nepal. Radio Jagaran established by Jagaran Media Center is the first CR established and operated in South Asia initiated by Dalit community.

A research conducted by JB Biswokarma has established that only 0.6% time has been allocated for the specific programme on Dalit per day on CR stations in Nepal. Very few CRs have taken the initiative to produce programmes for the Dalit community in Nepal. According to his book titled, ‘Dalit in Nepali Media: Participation and Contents’, 48 dalit-centred programmes had been broadcast so far out of which 15 had been discontinued. There is a need that CRs of South Asian Region accept the serious agenda of Dalits and establish a clear roadmap to end the caste-based discrimination and untouchability for strengthening democracy in real sense.