Fire in the pen – The Green Amsterdammer

Meera Devi (right) in ‘Writing with Fire’, directed by Sushmit Ghosh and Rintu Thomas

Movies that matter

August 11, 2020 India’s Supreme Court handed down a ruling that marked a step towards greater equality between men and women in the country. Until then, there had been differences in inheritance rights between sons and daughters, enshrined in the so-called Hindu Inheritance Law of 1956. This law, a product of socialist India after independence, put an end to the disqualification of women in matters of inheritance, but let yet sons have greater claims to inheritance than daughters. In 2005, that status was offset, but only for inheritance from after that year. In 2020, the Supreme Court took one last step. From that moment on, daughters could also claim an inheritance that had previously been assigned only to their brothers.

On paper, the ruling was a means of making it easier for women to acquire property in a society where they are traditionally detained, but reception was cautious. Khabar Lahariya, the news medium that is the subject of the award-winning documentary write with fire, gave the floor to several women who said they did not want to use their newly acquired rights. They preferred not to seek conflict with their brothers over possession of deceased parents. “The conditioning is deep in it,” he commented Khabar Lahariya, “The responsibility for maintaining good family ties always rests with the daughters.”

This reporting was typical of Khabar Lahariya, New Wave, which started in 2002 as a newspaper run by women from the Dalit caste, is the lowest ranked in India’s stubborn socio-religious hierarchy. For more than twenty years, journalists have been from Khabar Lahariya small stories of great significance, mostly from rural India, and usually with a feminist slant. Initially, this was done with printed newspapers, in Hindi or Bundeli, a language spoken in central India.

In 2019, as a prelude to a new round of national elections in India, Khabar Lahariya a switch to digital. That was when documentary producers Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh turned their cameras towards the magazine, which soon ceased to be a magazine but a YouTube channel that reached large parts of India. Too many of the women in Khabar Lahariya it was the first time they got their fingers in a smartphone. It proved to be not only a way to quickly expose abuse, but also an instrument to enforce respect. The condescending men that the journalists of Khabar Lahariya the story turned out to be much more shocking when shot on a live image.

Suneeta, reporter in the documentary ‘Writing With Fire’

Music box movie

The magazine quickly became a YouTube channel that reached large parts of India

Writing with fire also shows that the short videos where villagers tell their stories serve as a tool to create change. Rural areas that have dried out because their irrigation canals have been closed will receive water after Khabar Lahariya reviewed it. Rape, which the officers first shrugged off, was prosecuted after Meera Devi, the veteran of Khabar Lahariya, reported to the police station with questions.

Meera Devi is the ultimate example of one with fire in the pen and a protagonist there Writing with fire makes a special documentary. She married at the age of fourteen and completed three studies while raising children. She squashes the potatoes at home after a day explaining to her fellow journalists how to record a movie and tell them new stories. Khabar Lahariya pants. How much journalism practiced by Dalit women in India goes against the grain becomes clear when Meera Devi’s husband is asked for a comment. “They are doomed to fail,” he says. For they will lose to ‘big media conglomerates’.

The point of that Writing with fire Subtly, it is precisely the major media conglomerates that are failing in India, at least measured by what one can expect from journalism. One of India’s most tragic developments in the last decade has been the loss of a rich, pluralistic news culture. They have been replaced by companies that act as brave interpreters of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalism, which is largely about identifying alleged enemies of India as guilty of ‘treason’.

Modis India, ranked 142nd out of 180 in the Press Freedom Index for Reporters Without Borders, is now one of the most dangerous countries for journalists. The independent press operates under a shadow of death threats and assassination attempts. Acquisition, firing of staff and closure of loyalty is a strategy whereby power-affiliated media companies eliminate dissent. There is hope that a small news media run by journalists, who must also overcome the barriers to caste and gender, can flourish.

Movies That Matter Festival

The annual Movies that Matter Festival with feature films and documentaries on human rights takes place from 8 to 16 April in The Hague (Pathé Buitenhof, Filmhuis Den Haag and ConcordiaTheater), online and throughout the country. For the full program see moviesthatmatter.nl

green afternoon

Especially for the readers of The green Amsterdammer two of our selected films about the climate crisis will be shown on Sunday 10 April between 13.00 and 17.45. Bigger than us (2021) is about the generation of young people around the world who are taking action against climate change, curtailment of press freedom and social injustice. IN Duty of care (2022) follows lawyer Roger Cox in his lawsuits against Shell and the Dutch government to tackle climate change harder. After both films, there is an in-depth program led by greeneditor Jaap Tielbeke. City: Pathé Buitenhof, The Hague. For tickets: moviesthatmatter.nl

Leave a Comment