In Banda, a few hours drive from the Taj Mahal, Geeta Devi collects testimonies of a woman who has been degraded to misery since she was abandoned by her husband. The news of the presence of the journalist from Khabar Lahariya spread rapidly, and women flocked in from everywhere in the hope that she too would be the voice of their complaints, especially against the authorities, the absence of drinking water, the clogged sewers.
Daily worries and intimate dramas
Women in these rural areas are also asking journalists to do so Khabar Lahariya to evoke, face to face, intimate dramas, hitherto silenced for fear of reprisals or exile – so often there is sexual harassment and violence. At the beginning of the film, Geeta Devi collects testimony from a rape victim on his smartphone: “Men broke into my house while I was alone. They raped me on the 16th, 8th, 19th, 3rd and also on the 10th of January“, she says. “Did you report it to the police?asks the reporter.Yes, with my husband, but they refuse to take our complaint. These men can kill us now. I no longer dare to leave my house.“And the man adds:”We did not trust anyone. Khabar Lahariya is our only hope. “
When citizens demand their rights, it is up to us to convey their demands. It is our duty and our responsibility.
Geeta Devi, journalist from Khabar Lahariya
The journalist then goes to the police station. Faced with an agent who claims not to know anything about the case, she insists that the complaint be received. “For me, journalism is the essence of democracy, she explains. When citizens demand their rights, it is up to us to convey their demands to the authorities. It is our duty and our responsibility. “
Twenty years of information
All from lower castes, the journalists from Khabar Lahariya (which could be translated as “Vague d’information”), a weekly newspaper founded in 2002 in Uttar Pradesh in northern India, covers topics ranging from coty theft to local corruption and violence against women and mafia violence, whose illegal activities bring entire villages into danger. As they travel the muddy roads of smashing two-wheeled cars, equipped with smartphones for the digital version of the publication, they bring back local information, often overlooked by mainstream Indian media.
In traditional attire and with a smile on their face, they stand up to the authorities and unscrupulous entrepreneurs and push politicians to the wall, without aggression, but honestly and preventively if necessary, in the face of some hostility. And often they act as vigilantes by their simple intervention. “Sometimes I’m anxious, I’m afraid someone will attack me. Especially when I report illegal mining“, However, testifies one of them.
Women talking about women
Journalist Geeta Devi and her colleagues belong to the community dalit, at the bottom of the irreconcilable caste system that governs Indian society. Discrimination against those who were once called “the untouchables” has reportedly been abolished, but they are still not allowed to enter temples, are not allowed in upper caste circles and still suffer from stigma, humiliation and abuse.
The correspondents of Khabar Lahariya know better than anyone else what can be endured in these patriarchal villages, women in general, tribal and Dalit communities in particular, and take a wise look at the countryside. Geeta Devi says she is proud of the processing of information through the “feminist lens”.
Just getting out of the house was a challenge. I had to fight.
Geeta Devi, journalist from Khabar Lahariya
In the beginning, no one gave expensive for the survival of Khabar Lahariya. But these committed women have gained respect at the expense of hard determination. Now they are being taken seriously by the authorities and their relatives. “Just getting out of the house was a challengesays Geeta Devi. I had to fight so many times … My dad was totally against it. He said to me: ‘you can not do this job, it is not for women’“Another journalist remembers her husband trying to force her to stay home.”When a man is at home, how can his wife go to work?“
“Women face the worst injustices everywheresays a journalist from Khabar Lahariya. Sometimes I feel like it’s a shame to be born a woman. First, she feels like she’s a burden to her parents. Then she becomes her husband’s slave. Her life is so fragile“In the newspaper, everyone insisted: they wanted to work at all costs and achieve relative freedom:”I am expected to marry a man in my caste with no choice left. But I love my freedom. I want a life without limitations. I could tell myself that I’m educated, I have a job, and that I should choose who I want to marry. But my choice can put my family to shame“, The young woman continues.
They were excluded from voting
For Meera Devi, Editor-in-Chief of Khabar Lahariya35, is about giving a voice to those who are excluded from India’s success. “When I fight for the rights of minorities, tribes and other marginalized groups in society, when these people are heard and given justice, I feel very satisfied“, says this woman who is passionate about her mission.
Once you give women the freedom they deserve, there is simply no stopping them.
Meera Devi, managing editor of Khabar Lahariya
Born in a remote village, married as a 14-year-old, Meera Devi had to fight against all odds to study until she graduated from university. She started at the newspaper in 2006 and covered cases of cattle grazing and tragic family strife before turning to local politics. His work has put villains in jail and forced officials to do their job and serve the community.
She was able to witness the emergence of Hindu nationalism in the rural areas of the country. “Men here are not used to seeing powerful women, especially in a field like journalism. But we turn the tideshe assures. We have proven that if women are given the right opportunities, we are capable of anythingshe adds. Once you give women the freedom they deserve, there is simply no stopping them.“.
Writing with fire at the Oscars
,March 28, 2022 Khabar Lahariya and its authorship of low-caste women are in Hollywood’s spotlight: Writing with fire, the documentary dedicated to them, was nominated for an Oscar for Best Documentary. The couple who directed it, Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh, let their joy explode on Twitter when their film nomination was announced:
Writing with fire follows the journalists from Khabar Lahariya during their reports, but also of their family life and their personal journey. It also testifies to these women’s fears of rural extraction in the light of the newspaper’s digital transformation and will, and with which they overcome them because it is necessary. As one of them said:We must succeed“.
With a premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in 2021, Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh’s films won two awards there – the audience award and a special jury award. “It’s a very inspiring story, a story about women that gives hopedeclared the director during the Los Angeles premiere. It is very strong, powerful, especially in today’s world full of mistrust of the mediaListen to the English interviews of Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh at the Sundance Film Festival: