Unseen and unheard : how Dalits are represented in three Indian newspapers

University essay from Södertörns högskola/Institutionen för kommunikation, medier och it


India has a population of 1, 2 billion people, and the country also has a great poor populationwhere 70 % still live in rural areas. The poorest are often Dalits, once called the untouchablesand they constitute one sixth, 167 million people, of India’s inhabitants. They are consideredoutside the caste system and are often on the bottom of the social ladder. Because of theircaste identity they are still discriminated.

Since media has the power to influence this thesis focuses on how the Dalits arerepresented in three newspapers: Times of India, The Hindu and Indian Express. How dojournalists find their reporting about Dalits? The theories used are development journalism,the agenda setting theory and theory about minorities in media.

A quantitative content analysis was done in Delhi during 17 days. 98 articles thatmentioned Dalits were found and coded.

This was combined with a qualitative method: respondent research. Eight interviews withpolitical journalists were done. During the field work there was a legislative assembly electionin the state Uttar Pradesh, which affected the results since caste is closely related to politics inIndia.

The results show that Dalits are mentioned quiet often in the newspapers, but the mainsubject is almost never Dalits and their situation in society. The most frequent topics were theelection, affirmative action, and crime and rape against Dalits. These subjects often have aconnection to sensation. The most quoted actors in the articles are the elite and not Dalits.Almost all respondents thought they could empower Dalits if they were reported about. Thisis a paradox since they almost never interview Dalits. There are no Dalit journalists at thethree newspapers, which can be one reason why they are not included in the news.

There is little research done on this subject and therefore more research is needed.

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