Dissent In Indian Media: Q&A with Neha Dixit
Neha Dixit, an award-winning independent Indian journalist, spoke to The Media Project about her investigation that exposed Hindu nationalist groups, which illegally trafficked tribal children across the country for ideological training with cooperation from state governments. The pushback to her story and lack of support from the mainstream media illustrate a shrinking space for dissent and the need for more reporting on the growth of Hindu nationalist ideology fueling the current central government and the resulting injustices faced by religious minorities and the poor.
TMP: Your investigation for Outlook Magazine, published in July, reports that Sangh Parivar groups cooperating with state governments illegally relocated children. You’ve received a lot of criticism for this story and have even with your colleagues been accused of inciting hatred, a crime in India. Can you tell us about the story and the pushback?
The story was about 31 tribal girls between the ages of 3 and 11 who were taken by three RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) groups from Assam (Northeast India) to Punjab and Gujarat (North and West India). The parents thought they were taken away for education and the schools were providing a formal education. But the parents have not able to contact the children for the last year. And they are still not able to.
I spoke to the government officials, and I got all the documents that called it “child trafficking.” They were exactly calling it child trafficking by violation of the UN Convention and the Indian laws. A week after the story was out, we heard this case was filed against us… to say we were inciting hatred.
The state (Gujarat), instead of investigating into the trafficking of these 31 cases, filed a case against the people who reported it. So it shows how certain fundamentalist bodies are emboldened by the government, and the government is completely ignoring the constitutional rights of the young tribal girls. The police have still not contacted us about this case.
The problem is that the whole issue became about freedom of speech instead of looking into the criminalities by these RSS bodies. What kind of education is this that violates a Supreme Court order and takes away children because they’re poor and from remote rural areas and not allowed to meet their parents? And there’s a complete ideological training going on, and that is not addressed at all. While we are being harassed and tortured, the larger problem is the constitutional rights of these tribal girls.
TMP: You’ve written follow-up pieces on your investigation, but why has the mainstream media largely ignored them? And in their response, how do you see the Indian media and its space for dissent changing?
To get any piece of news out there is becoming increasingly difficult. Because political outfits were involved in the trafficking of the girls, none of the mainstream media wants to touch this issue, because of their corporate owners. They only want to write about people who are going to generate some profit for them.