Campus protests

IIMC alumni protest: Should ‘media-baiting’ Bastar cop Kalluri be invited to a journalism seminar?

‘If we can listen to the Hurriyat, why can we not listen to Kalluri?’ counters government-run media school’s director general.

An invitation to the controversial former inspector general of Bastar, Chattisgarh, SRP Kalluri to speak at a journalism seminar at Delhi’s Indian Institute of Mass Communication on Saturday has drawn protests from some students and alumni.

“Should such a media-baiter [Indian Police Service] officer, who is also alleged to have hounded many journalists out of his region, be allowed to speak on the premises of a media institute of international repute?” about 50 alumni said in a letter on Thursday night to the government-run media school’s director general, KG Suresh.

They added: “Though we do not dispute any citizen’s right to speak on any issue of public importance…we firmly believe IIMC should deny this right to the likes of…Kalluri who loves to hate the media and media persons...”

The police officer, who has been dogged by accusations of having been involved in severe human rights violations, has been invited to speak on marginalised communities at a seminar titled “Vartaman Paripreksh me Rashtriya Patrakarita” or nationalist journalism in today’s context.

It isn’t just Kalluri’s presence that has outraged the protestors: they have criticsed the premise of the seminar itself, which will begin, the invitation promises, with a 7 am yajna – a ritual worship or offering made before a fire.

Over the last few years, Kalluri has been accused of stoking protests against journalists, human rights activists, lawyers and researchers in Bastar. Several, including journalist Malini Subramaniam and human rights lawyer, Shalini Gera had to leave the region following harassment on Kalluri’s watch.

He was transferred from his post in February. In March, he was served a disciplinary notice for attending an event in Bastar without official permission.

Local group in Jagdalpur protesting against journalists and activists, calling them Naxalites (Photo: Malini Subramaniam)
Local group in Jagdalpur protesting against journalists and activists, calling them Naxalites (Photo: Malini Subramaniam)

It wasn’t just Kalluri’s presence that had drawn the ire of the protestors: they objected to the theme of the seminar as well. “What defines ‘rashtriya’ journalism?” they asked in their letter. “Has any media school in the world introduced this discourse in its curriculum? What is the origin of the term?....It goes against the scientific and information-driven journalism.”

In addition to the yajna and Kalluri’s piece, the seminar is also scheduled to to feature the editor of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s mouthpiece, Panchjanya.

The seminar is being organised by a group called Media Scan.

One of the invites to the programme. It mentions the yajna. (Photo: Rohin Kumar)
One of the invites to the programme. It mentions the yajna. (Photo: Rohin Kumar)

Indian Institute of Mass Communication’s director general KG Suresh described Media Scan as an “organisation of media persons” not affiliated to the Sangh. Suresh said he was unlikely to honour the alumni’s request to scuttle the seminar and, especially, Kalluri’s visit. “If we can listen to the Hurriyat, why can we not listen to Kalluri?” he asked, referring to Tehreek-e-Hurriyat, the Kashmiri separatist party.

A student of the institute, Rohin Kumar had written to him and faculty-members, in protest against the yajna. “The Indian state and its institutions have to maintain [a] “principled distance” from religiosity, is what I was taught,” he wrote. He also argued that the seminar was peddling “jingoism”.

Suresh countered that the media institute had little control over either the guest-list or the programme, including the yajna. “Media Scan sought space and I gave it to them,” he told Scroll.in. “They have decided on whom to invite and it is their guests who will attend. Earlier, the jury of the Laadli Media Awards had wanted space for their meeting and I gave them.”

The alumni refused to buy this argument. “Your bid to wash your hands of the selection of speakers and theme notwithstanding, we believe that IIMC must have convinced itself of the righteousness of [the] seminar’s message before allowing it to be held at IIMC and what impression [it is] going to leave in the national and international community,” they wrote.

Defending himself against charges of allowing the institution to be used to spread RSS propaganda, Suresh pointed out that the campus is virtually empty now. “The academic session is over,” he said. “Except for the few in the hostel – who will vacate by May 31 – there is not even a single student here. Who am I saffronising then? The buildings?” He further said that the event being on a Saturday, no faculty or staff-member will be on campus either. “It will be their [Media Scan’s] own people and invitees,” he said. “If I had to saffronise, I would do it during the academic session.”

Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Do you really need to use that plastic straw?

The hazards of single-use plastic items, and what to use instead.

In June 2018, a distressed whale in Thailand made headlines around the world. After an autopsy it’s cause of death was determined to be more than 80 plastic bags it had ingested. The pictures caused great concern and brought into focus the urgency of the fight against single-use plastic. This term refers to use-and-throw plastic products that are designed for one-time use, such as takeaway spoons and forks, polythene bags styrofoam cups etc. In its report on single-use plastics, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has described how single-use plastics have a far-reaching impact in the environment.

Dense quantity of plastic litter means sights such as the distressed whale in Thailand aren’t uncommon. Plastic products have been found in the airways and stomachs of hundreds of marine and land species. Plastic bags, especially, confuse turtles who mistake them for jellyfish - their food. They can even exacerbate health crises, such as a malarial outbreak, by clogging sewers and creating ideal conditions for vector-borne diseases to thrive. In 1988, poor drainage made worse by plastic clogging contributed to the devastating Bangladesh floods in which two-thirds of the country was submerged.

Plastic litter can, moreover, cause physiological harm. Burning plastic waste for cooking fuel and in open air pits releases harmful gases in the air, contributing to poor air quality especially in poorer countries where these practices are common. But plastic needn’t even be burned to cause physiological harm. The toxic chemical additives in the manufacturing process of plastics remain in animal tissue, which is then consumed by humans. These highly toxic and carcinogenic substances (benzene, styrene etc.) can cause damage to nervous systems, lungs and reproductive organs.

The European Commission recently released a list of top 10 single-use plastic items that it plans to ban in the near future. These items are ubiquitous as trash across the world’s beaches, even the pristine, seemingly untouched ones. Some of them, such as styrofoam cups, take up to a 1,000 years to photodegrade (the breakdown of substances by exposure to UV and infrared rays from sunlight), disintegrating into microplastics, another health hazard.

More than 60 countries have introduced levies and bans to discourage the use of single-use plastics. Morocco and Rwanda have emerged as inspiring success stories of such policies. Rwanda, in fact, is now among the cleanest countries on Earth. In India, Maharashtra became the 18th state to effect a ban on disposable plastic items in March 2018. Now India plans to replicate the decision on a national level, aiming to eliminate single-use plastics entirely by 2022. While government efforts are important to encourage industries to redesign their production methods, individuals too can take steps to minimise their consumption, and littering, of single-use plastics. Most of these actions are low on effort, but can cause a significant reduction in plastic waste in the environment, if the return of Olive Ridley turtles to a Mumbai beach are anything to go by.

To know more about the single-use plastics problem, visit Planet or Plastic portal, National Geographic’s multi-year effort to raise awareness about the global plastic trash crisis. From microplastics in cosmetics to haunting art on plastic pollution, Planet or Plastic is a comprehensive resource on the problem. You can take the pledge to reduce your use of single-use plastics, here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of National Geographic, and not by the Scroll editorial team.