Children Defy Sahara Distortion

In a shocking display of corporate yellow-journalism at its worst, Sahara News Channel aired a conspiratorially planned and fabricated story accusing CPI(ML) of hiring child labour during the rally preparations. It was obviously aimed at diverting public attention from the Rally’s impact and to malign CPI(ML)’s image as the most consistent fighter for democracy, rights, dignity and livelihood of the toiling masses.

It so happened that when Party cadres, including women and children belonging to families of Party members and supporters from an urban poor locality in Patna, were busy preparing flags, festoons etc on the Party’s State Office grounds, one reporter of Sahara News Channel came there. He asked one of the boys, Suraj, “How much you earn in a day?” Suraj answered that he earned around Rs.60 as a rag picker on normal days. Now Suraj’s mother Dukhia Devi is a Party member and Suraj and many other children from Party families had come there to help and participate in Party programmes. Obviously Suraj’s reply had nothing to do with his participation in the Rally preparations. But the Channel started telecasting footage of Suraj’s reply, projecting it as proof of ‘child labour’ used by CPI(ML)! They even invited Party General Secretary, Comrade Dipankar to their studio, on the pretext of a panel discussion on the Rally. But the only other panellist invited was an RSS man Ram Dev Prasad, currently Chief of the State’s Child Labour Commission, and the single-point, pre-planned agenda of the programme was the so-called “scoop” of child labour hired by CPI(ML)!

When the Party supporters of the concerned urban poor locality, including Suraj and his mother Dukhiya Devi, came to know about this telecast, they were angry at having been manipulated in a manner that was an insult of the political agency and identity of the children, many of whom take pride in being supporters of CPI(ML). They felt that the media often approvingly shows images of middle-class children mobilised on various issues in Marches; but when children from deprived backgrounds are active in the political party which they fiercely defend as their own, the media can only see them through the demeaning and belittling prism of ‘child labour’. The people of the locality organized a ‘Bal Panchayat’ on March 20 to assert the truth and demanded that Sahara cover this event with as much emphasis and focus as they had covered the mischievous previous episode.

The Bal Panchayat was attended by 66 children. There, Suraj himself put the same Sahara reporter, who had come to cover the event, in the dock for distorting and manipulating his statement. He demanded an apology from the reporter. Suraj’s mother Dukhiya Devi also rebuked him, saying that far from doing Party work for wages, we contribute from our wages to the party, and work of our own free will for its programmes because it is our own Party which stands for us in our hour of need. When the reporter responded feebly that Suraj ought to have been at school instead of at the Rally preparations, she retorted that if the Government would at all start a school in our slum, we would certainly prefer Suraj to study rather than be a ragpicker!

The Sahara Channel, despite assurances, has yet to telecast the Bal Panchayat programme. CPI(ML) has also challenged the RSS man heading the Child Labour Commission in the Nitish regime to hold an enquiry into the charges of child labour against CPI(ML) and make public the findings. Suraj and his frinds and family are determined to continue the struggle for their rights, and to avenge the insult meted out to them by Sahara.

Liberation Archive