NÉW DELHI: Millions of members of India’s Dalit community have been subject to widespread mistreatment and violence for decades, but their stories have largely gone untold.

In India’s Hindu caste system, Dalits (also spelled “untouchables”) are the lowest caste. The population of India is approximately 1.3 billion, so this group represents about 20% of the country.

Some members of the community have achieved prominence, but the vast majority of its members are still oppressed and stuck in a cycle of poverty that has dogged them for generations.

Meena Kotwal, a 33-year-old journalist who grew up in the slums of New Delhi, decided to start a news outlet dedicated to the community in the hopes that doing so would help improve their living conditions.
Two years ago, an online publication called The Mooknayak (which translates to “leader of the voiceless”) was introduced.

I started the newspaper out of rage and published the first issue online in 2021…

After staying at the BBC for two years (2017–2019), I attempted to secure employment in the Indian media but was unsuccessful. I tried freelancing, but most of the stories I pitched were turned down, Kotwal told Arab News.
The places I applied for jobs did not value me because I am a woman and a Dalit with my own voice. Then I realized I could use The Mooknayak to share not only my story, but others that traditional news outlets might not be interested in.

The name of this magazine comes from the biweekly newspaper that Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar, a social reformer and advocate for Dalit rights and a key architect of the Indian Constitution’s explicit prohibition of caste discrimination, founded more than a century ago.
Kotwal’s newspaper is both a website and a popular YouTube channel with 50,000 viewers.

It was her intention to “pay back to society whatever I have learned” by founding The Mooknayak, she explained.
Crowdfunding is used to maintain the site, and Dalits and other underrepresented groups are used to staff it. Kotwal promises to keep it operating despite the company’s financial difficulties.

No matter how difficult it is financially, I will not let this website go offline during my lifetime. “It’s up to me to carry on the work that Ambedkar began,” she declared.
For the sake of my daughter’s development, I hope we can make society and the world a better place.

The Mooknayak reports on unreported incidents, which prompts authorities to take action, such as bringing electricity to a remote Dalit village or investigating and prosecuting violent criminals.

The mainstream media rarely covers such stories.
The concerns of Dalits are largely ignored by mainstream media, according to Rajat Kumar, a Dalit lawyer in the northern Indian state of Haryana who spoke with Arab News.

Discrimination against Dalits persists in India seven decades after the country became a republic. Some rural communities are in just as bad of shape as they were 200 years ago.

The founder of The Mooknayak hopes to alter this dynamic by publishing previously untold accounts of the experiences of the underprivileged.

“History will change,” Kotwal predicted. As one author put it, “Until now, history was written by only one kind of people; now it is being written by those who themselves suffered in history.”