Presentation Description: In the last one year, India has witnessed two major protest movements against the government led by the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party. Both movements erupted following the laws passed by the government without enough consultation with the people these laws will directly impact. Interestingly, both movements were spearheaded by the marginalised social groups that have been at the receiving end of Modi government’s politics. The anti-Citizenship Law movement was led by Muslim women and anti-Farm laws protests by the farmers. In the past six years of the Modi rule, the government has aggressively implemented its Hindu majoritarian agenda by trying to change the basic structure of the constitution, suppressing religious minorities and criminalising free speech. Sadly, the political opposition has largely been ineffective and key institutions including the judiciary have remained a mute spectator. The media has gone a step further and has literally become an arm of the state’s propaganda machinery. In the face of this assault, will the people and their resistance be able to save the Indian democracy and its basic tenets? The talk will analyse:
- The role of the protests movements and the future of democratic resistance in India, and to what extent they have been able to challenge the authoritarian actions of the government.
- How the politics of majoritarianism is undermining the constitution and endangering the lives and livelihoods of the religious minorities and other politically disadvantaged groups.
- The state of the mainstream media, how it is helping the BJP in spreading its anti-constitution and anti-people agenda and the emergence of alternate digital platforms media.- And finally the future of journalism in the largest democracy of the world.
Presenter Bio: Arfa Khanum Sherwani works as a senior editor at The Wire (thewire.in), a financially and editorially independent multimedia news website published in English, Hindi and Urdu. The website mainly covers politics and current affairs, policy and governance matters, besides science journalism. Currently, she leads the multimedia team at The Wire. She has spent nearly two decades in the broadcast news sector covering politics, policy and governance issues. Her area of special interest is social justice. She hosts two popular programs on its site – ‘Arfa ka India’ (Arfa’s India) – a daily video Op-Ed on ‘news of the day’ – and ‘Hum Bhi Bharat’ (‘We Are Also India’), a weekly video program primarily devoted to the issues of people who are living on the margins of Indian democracy. Amidst the big corporate media’s monopoly over ideas, agendas and their control over ‘who would be allowed to speak’, our shows have, on many occasions, succeeded in countering the narrative, taking the debate forward or generating a new debate altogether.
She is a founding member of RajyaSabha TV- the official broadcaster of the Upper House of India’s Parliament and worked there till 2017. Prior to that, she worked with NDTV for several years and was also associated with Bollywood actor Aamir Khan for his TV show, ‘SatyamevJayate’.
She has covered the Afghan elections of 2014 and the Iranian presidential elections of 2009. In 2016, she travelled to Iraq and made a documentary, ‘Jihad against ISIS’, on the ongoing conflict and the role of private militias in the country.
Awards and fellowships
- Red Ink Award for Excellence in Journalism for the Best Political Report of the year (TV category), 2019 for the interview with the godman and ‘Art of Living’ founder Sri Sri Ravishankar. The interview exposed his hypocrisy as a self-appointed mediator in the Ayodhya dispute and he subsequently filed a Rs 100 million defamation case against her and The Wire.
- Chameli Devi Jain Award for Outstanding Woman Journalist for the year -2019 for reports on Kashmir and coverage of India’s parliamentary elections.
- Robert Bosch Media Ambassadors Fellowship (2017), ‘The Rise of Right Wing Politics in Germany’
- India Representative, ‘Senior Journalists Seminar Fellowship’ by the East-West Centre, United States, 2018.
Education and leadership
Ph.D. and Master’s in political science from Jamia Millia Islamia University, New Delhi. Her doctoral thesis was a socio-political analysis of Dalits (the lowest caste group) and Muslims in India. She was invited to address the Harvard India Conference at Harvard University in February 2020. She also spoke at the Global Media Forum in Bonn, Germany (2017) on identity and diversity. She is a co-founder of South Asian Women in Media. Established in 2008, the organisation works with international rights organizations for freedom of press, increased participation of women in the media, a gender-sensitive work environment and a gender-equal outlook in the media..In its history of over 100 years, she was the second ever elected woman vice president of Aligarh Muslim University’s alumni association, a body dominated by men so far.She is an ‘Advisor in Residence’ for the Led ByFoundation, which works as a leadership incubator for Muslim women. It is a unique leadership program for young Indian Muslim women that focuses on experiential learning, collaborative networking, and financial support.
Co-sponsored by: The Roukema Center for International Education, the George T. Potter Library, and the Ramapo Provost Office.