BHUBANESWAR: The written word has the ability to change people’s perception of the ‘Other’, the ones who are marginalised. It can help bridge the divide which exists between the mainstream and the marginalised, opined writers and panelists at the session ‘Embracing the Other: Can the Written Word Help?’ on the concluding day of the seventh edition of Odisha Literary Festival-2018 here on Sunday.
The session was moderated by Founder of Bakul Foundation Sujit Mahapatra.
For Delhi-based journalist and writer Neyaz Farooquee, the written word plays a key role in creating the perception of the marginalised among those who enjoy the privilege of being in the mainstream. Having spent most part of his youth in Jamia Nagar, a Muslim ghetto on the outskirts of the national capital, Neyaz described himself as an ‘Other’ whose job is to deal with the marginalised.
Neyaz said he was disturbed by the media reporting during the Batla House encounter in 2008. “When I was a student of Jamia Milia University, two of my friends were shot dead by police on charges of being ‘terrorists’. The kind of reporting in some media houses was scary and shocking. The entire Muslim community and the locality were stereotyped as terrorists and terrorist sympathisers,” he said.
Author Kota Neelima, who writes on farmer suicides, gender and the rural poor, said a woman chooses to be invisible and hence, the Other.
Journalist, writer and documentary film maker Avalok Langer’s Other are the people from the North East. They are not accepted by the mainstream India and their sense of alienation is huge.
On being asked about the pressure on the Other to prove themselves, Neyaz said there is a constant demand on Muslims of the country to prove themselves.
Neelima said the pressure is more on women who constitute the biggest chunk of the Other. No segment of the population, other than women, has to conform to the rules of society to be accepted.
The North-East people feel the pressure when the mainstream refuses to accept them and are forced to confine themselves among closed-knit groups or ghettoising themselves, said Avalok whose interest lies in conflict journalism.
All the panelists however, acknowledged the change which social media has brought in the narrative of the contemporary society. Neyaz said, “Social media has made us rethink about our ways of storytelling”.
Neelima acknowledged the power of social media but asserted the immortality of the written word.
“Literature stays with us. It forces us to think,” she said.
There has been a shift in consumption pattern of stories and ideas. Writing is no more the best medium to reach out to maximum number of people. “Make a short documentary and upload it on social media. This will do the job,” Avalok averred.