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Journalist who exposed Residential School-like system in India honoured Featured

A courageous Indian journalist who exposed a Residential School-like system in her country has been honoured by an alternative media outlet.

Neha Dixit did an investigative report on a pattern behind plucking indigenous girls from the North Eastern states of India, to be taken far away from their families to indoctrinate them into a right wing Hindu nationalist ideology.

Published by the Outlook magazine in 2016, the story enraged supporters of the ruling Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) who not only lodged a police complaint against Dixit and others in the publication staff, but also attacked them on social media.

Her report revealed how different outfits affiliated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) of which the BJP is a part, trafficked 31 tribal girls from Assam, including those as young as three, and sent them to distantly located states of Punjab and Gujarat, where special Hindu seminaries indoctrinated them into the ultra-nationalist Hindu ideology. 

RSS desires to transform India into a unified Hindu theocracy. Attacks on non-Hindus have intensified under the BJP government that came to power with a brute majority in 2014.   

Dixit found that these girls were taught the Hindi language and encouraged to become vegetarians in accordance with Hindu norms, giving up their tribal identity and customs. The idea is no different from the one adopted in Canada by the churches, to Christianize Indigenous children after taking them away from their families as part of their policy of assimilation. The RSS too has similar designs of assimilating various minority communities, including tribals, Buddhists and Sikhs.

But the matter did not end there. Dixit noted that these tribal girls in the RSS-run schools were also brainwashed to become fanatics who hate religious minorities, such as Muslims and Christians.      

Last month, the Punjab-based Suhi Saver which covers alternative politics, invited Dixit to Ludhiana where she was honoured with their annual award for courage in journalism.

Apart from covering the story of these tribal girls, Dixit has also covered the issue of extra judicial murders of Muslim men by the Indian police. Often the Muslims are branded as terrorists, and then killed by the police in staged encounters in the BJP-run state of Uttar Pradesh, in the name of peace and security.  

Suhi Saver is run by Shiv Inder Singh, who was removed by a Vancouver-based South Asian radio station as its news commentator from Punjab for his critical views of the BJP government. He has been running his outlet with the help of independent donors, and every year he invites active journalists to Ludhiana for guest lectures on pressing issues which are generally ignored by the mainstream media.  The focus of this year’s event was the oppression of women, and growing chauvinism and patriarchy under a right wing regime. Others honoured on the occasion were independent TV journalist Arfa Khanum Sherwani, who is also a vocal critic of religious extremism, and two activists, Sudesh Kumari and Gurvinder Singh. While Kumari spearheaded a campaign for justice to the victims of sexual violence at a spiritual centre run by controversial godmam Gurmit Ram Rahim in Haryana, Singh was involved in a movement against barbaric rape and murder of a girl in Mehal Kalan in Punjab by some influential people. 


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