Empowering Voices: P. Sainath’s Engagement at MAHE Bengaluru

Bengaluru, 19th February 2024: Manipal Academy of Higher Education (MAHE), Bengaluru invited the renowned journalist Palagummi Sainath to convene two media workshops for their undergraduate and postgraduate cohorts. Palagummi is known for his groundbreaking work in rural journalism and was invited by the Department of Liberal Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences (DLHS) of MAHE.

Out of his three-day visit, for the first day, on the 8th of February, the author of the acclaimed 1996 book, ‘The Great Indian Drought: Stories from India’s Poorest Districts’, Sainath engaged with undergraduate media and political science majors, in a deeply invigorating conversation on, “Journalism for Empowerment: Understanding the Role of Alternative Media”. Young students embarked on a day-long workshop that primed them for the rise of alternative media and the discourse around its relevancy in today’s mediascape. The founding editor of the People’s Archive of Rural India (PARI) posed some pertinent questions to students that urged them to critically evaluate their role as learning media practitioners in a deeply polarised and competitive media environment. Ankita Sahoo, a second-year student who is majoring in political science and history from the department describes the discourse as, “Sainath’s insightful analysis unveiled the intricate workings of media politics, exposing how dominant narratives obscure reality. His call for ethical journalism resonated deeply, urging a commitment to truth and amplifying marginalized perspectives”.

The second and third days with the 2007 Ramon Magsaysay Awardee for Journalism, Literature, and Creative Communication Arts saw him delve into a vivid conversation on the idea of journalism with the hope of empowering the marginalised. His experience on the field in unravelling narratives of poverty, structural and historic inequities, caste-based discrimination and violence, and the rights of farmers was reflected in tracing the topic, “Reporting Development: A Subaltern Approach.” Christopher Miltus, a second-year MA in Multimedia and communication student notes his learnings from the two-day-long conversation spearheaded by the former Rural Affairs Editor of The Hindu. Miltus explains, “The workshop was an eye-opening experience, delving deep into narratives of poverty and discrimination with a focus on empowering marginalized communities. His insights challenged us to rethink traditional journalistic approaches and strive for more inclusive storytelling.”

For the department, this set of workshops with P. Sainath comes at a time when they are focusing on exposing their students to various natures of journalism. These workshops further the department’s efforts in preparing future media practitioners to target their work toward ushering in change by highlighting the voices of communities on the peripheries. Dr. Shilpa Kalyan, HoD, DLHS, explains, “We are pleased to host Sainath. We believe his nuanced understanding of bringing stories from the ground would enable our students to be responsible journalists who will strive to bring about stories that usually go unheard.”

Sunayan, associate professor of media at the department, PG coordinator, and the facilitator of the workshops notes, “Sainath’s interaction with our students was a promising sight for us. The enthusiasm they showed in not just learning from him but also contributing to the conversation over the three days imbibed a sense of hope in us. The workshops imbibed a sense of critical elevation among the students regarding the kind of journalism they would want to do.”

The learnings students take home after interacting with P. Sainath over these three days underscores the essence of responsible journalism in amplifying marginalized voices. Through engaging discussions on alternative media and subaltern approaches to reporting, Sainath inspires budding journalists to empower communities on the peripheries, echoing the ethos of his pioneering work in rural journalism.