New Delhi : Journalists, academicians, activists, lawyers and eminent personalities came together in solemn remembrance of the death of Dalit journalist Nagaraju Koppula who died after a protracted battle with cancer. Participants at the condolence meeting held on April 23, resolved to fight for justice against the casteist discrimination and contractual exploitation meted out to him by his employers The New Indian Express.
Despite being highly qualified with an MA in History from University of Hyderabad, Post graduation in journalism from IIJNM Bangalore, interned with The Hindu Chennai, the New Indian Express underpaid him, denied health benefits when faced with deadly disease cancer, Provident Fund and other monetary rights pushing him to death.
Veteran journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta with whom Nagaraju had worked as a translator from Telugu to English for a documentary said, “Nagaraju stood out in the crowd of elitist students in Tehelka School of Journalism (now defunct) creative writing course. I was shocked when I heard he passed away. He was determined to work in English print media despite many people advising him otherwise. His passing away is a great loss to journalism and the Dalit community. There need to be safeguards for people entering the profession from marginalised backgrounds.”
Journalist and researcher Sukumar Muralidharan sent a message of condolence and expressed his solidarity to the cause of getting justice for Nagaraju Koppula.
Jawaharlal Nehru University Prof Pradeep Shinde got emotional and said, “The situation is tricky. Dalits who come to the cities carry not only their own individual aspirations but the aspirations of all those left behind in the village. More than cancer or any other disease, the treatment they are meted out with by the society at large and the lack of support in these cities, kills them. Nagaraju could have perhaps fought the cancer for a few more years had he not been deprived of psychological support and become a victim of systemic institutional discrimination.”
Mr Nathu Prasad representing the Dali Shoshan Mukti Manch expressed his condolences.
The meeting concluded by demanding immediate action on several fronts, some of them as follows:
– The rightful dues including medical reimbursements, salary dues and compensation for the 25 years of productive service lost be given to the family and not through doles collected from employees
– Immediate action against all those responsible for victimizing him
– Constitution of an enquiry into the matter
– Legal action under SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act
A joint committee consisting of journalists, DUJ, lawyers and activists will hold an independent investigation into the matter and submit a report in a month
Memorandums will also be sent to various concerned bodies like the Press Council of India, NHRC, SC/ST Commission, Govt of India etc.
The meeting decided to hold a candle light protest outside The New Indian Express office on Bahadurshah Jafar Marg on April 25, Saturday from 6.30 p.m. onwards to demand justice for Nagaraju. A joint memorandum will be submitted to the management.