Khabar Lahariya – Example of Path Breaking Rural Journalism

/ Dr. Swati Shukla /

For Kannada Version – click here 

Are you tired of the shouting TV anchors, cacophony of TV channel debates, Modi Vs Rahul, BJP Vs Congress , Chowkidar Vs Pappu binaries? Are you also looking for alternative media outlets? Welcome to the community and congratulations on keeping your sanity.

Today we are talking about one newspaper that has been making waves in the hinterland of Bundelkhand region of Uttar Pradesh since 2002 called Khabar Lahariya. Khabar Lahariya (KL) meaning News wave has many “firsts” and “onlys” to its credit. Khabar Lahariya,  a weekly newspaper is the country´s first and only women- run independent rural newspaper delivering local news in many parts of rural north. Khabar lehariya is the only newspaper in India that is brought together entirely by a collective of rural women. They write, they edit, they photograph and conceptualise the news stories. Most of them come from Dalit, Adivasi and Muslim communities. These women are selected from these communities and trained in writing stories, reporting and video making. With its women reporters, it delivers in areas where there is no newspaper at all. It was started in Bundelkhand district of UP by Nirantar, a Delhi based gender rights group that works on women literacy. Mahila Dakiya (“Woman post), the predecessor to khabhar lahariya was a popular experiment that instigated the need to cater news to new and self educated rural folk along with working towards women empowerment.

 

Khabar lahariya wants to give news to people in their own language. It started in Bundeli bhasha and has now turned in five languages – Bajjika, Awadhi, Hindustani and Bhojpuri published from Banda, Sitamarhi, Mahoba, Lucknow, Faizabad, Ambedkar Nagar and Varanasi. Their efforts have led to sustained production of reading material in local languages and promoted an overall environment of learning. Many of their reporters read out the news to people who cannot read. Two years ago, they launched their digital portal to reach out to urban population. It claims to have a reader base of 80,000 in UP, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar and reaches five million people a month through multiple digital platforms. It has a network of 30 women reporters and stringers in 13 districts of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.

 

Among the things that they report are the situation of villages adopted by the MPs, condition of schools, health care centres, midday meals, cleanliness drives, toilets and farmers not getting their crop dues. They have district wise sections, along with sections on politics, development and crime against women. They are doing the work of keeping parliamentarians on their toes with their report card in election specials with ground reporting from their constituencies. In 2018, they started Yogi tracker that tracks the activities of UP CM Yogi Adityanath. In their section “Women at work” they covered how #MeToo was in small towns and rural landscape where women have even less agency and lesser chance of getting justice.

A big aspect of journalism is follow up, something which the big city journalists have forgotten. At Khabar Laharia, they have a column called “asar” (Impact)  which shows how their stories made local authorities improve things on the ground, be it on sanitation, condition of schools and even electrification of entire village. 

 

They have gotten compliments as well as threats for their work. Journalism is mostly a male dominated field, these women not only have to struggle with their families and society to do their work but also have to fight with local MLAs and authorities. This has not deterred these women. Instead it has further sharpened their politics about caste, gender, language and rural- urban divide. They are more determined to take on families and administration. They have impacted ample social, political and infrastructural improvement in the region.They are the news vigilantes of rural India which the “New India” has forgotten that it even exists only to remember before elections. After almost 17 years of existence, Khabar lahariya has won the trust of local people, who now reach out to the paper to report incidents.

The success of Khabar lahariya is a shining example that Journalism is not always a space satellite but also the roads that are not made the irrigation projects that remain unfinished. Lets make such Journalism..lets support such Journalism!!

From KL website- 

Our rural journalism is feminist. We report on issues of violence against women with an astute understanding of gender and caste structures within which this violence is situated. News reports in Khabar Lahariya question structures of power and inequity in the personal sphere of the family, as well as in the public realm. This is what Rural Journalism Looks Like!

Khabar Lahariya has gotten several national and international awards- 

UNESCO King Sejong Literacy Prize in 2009

Laadli Media Award for gender sensitive reporting in 2012

Amazing Indian Award by Times Now in 2012

Kaifi Azmi Award in memory of poet Kaifi Azmi in 2013

German media channel Deutsche Welle awarded the prestigious Global Media Forum Award in 2014

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