The non-profit organization that aims to empower people in underdeveloped areas of India by teaching them video journalism skills and helping them create and broadcast media, Video Volunteers, is having a very busy week with their latest project, Article 17 Campaign, which addresses untouchability in India.
Untouchability, the practice of segregating and discriminating against a certain group of people by social custom or legal mandate, primarily affects the Dalit, who are considered the “lowest” community in India’s complex caste system. For over two thousand years, the Dalits have been defined by an archaic social hierarchy that regards them as unequal to–or even less than–human. They are referred to as “polluting” among the people of South Asia.
Despite the fact that the National Constitution of India legally forbade and abolished this practice in 1950 with Article 17, this culture of segregation is so deeply embedded in all aspects of society–social, religious, political and economic–that untouchability still runs rampant today, causing a lot of suffering and tragedy.
Launched on Monday, April 14, Article 17 Campaign confronts the practice of untouchability in India–from the inside. The project has enlisted and utilized many “Community Correspondents,” or local video journalists, who have been (and still are) documenting the various forms of untouchability happening in India today. They have spent the last two months documenting the discrimination action across the country, and because they are actually from the communities they are documenting, they have been able to capture intimate moments that are rarely witnessed by outsiders.
Video Volunteers plans to use the media buzz they create as a means to urge the National Commission for Scheduled Castes, the government body that is constitutionally appointed to direct and implement the safeguards against untouchability, to do their job and put an end the systematic ostracizing and abuse of Dalit by the dominant castes throughout India.
The project includes a series of expository video testimonials and a petition for action. Viewers are encouraged to watch, sign, and then share the media through their own social media outlets—becoming part of the cause themselves. Video Volunteers asserts, “We want to give viewers the responsibility, as witnesses, to end this age-old oppression once and for all.”
The first 22 videos are featured on their website right now and more will be added as the campaign continues. Hoping their efforts will continue to grow exponential viral momentum and serve as leverage for changing the way discrimination is prosecuted in India, we at Ode encourage you all to take part by watching and sharing the videos and signing the petition.
By Michelle Oznowicz