Story of a Newspaper for the Bottom of Pyramid : Janta ka Aaina

Shakil Ahmed is the most socialist person that I have seen in my life. I am not saying he is godly but there’s something about him that tells you that he is probably one of the very rare kinds that is left in today’s world. He doesn’t get easily knocked down and am in awe of his blue blooded objectivity. I first met him in his office in Wadala in 2006 in relation to some work with a NGO. He had just come back from the court, where he was representing a victim from the slum in a criminal case. After that day I formed an impression about him which hasn’t changed yet. There was no grey area in his talk just like his clothes, his perceptions about the Government and how it needs to serve its people is quite clear. How they lag behind and where and what needs to be done.

But before I met Shakil, he has worked as a carpenter, a milk seller, a newspaper delivery boy and a mechanic. From selling bean bags in Malabar Hill housing societies to selling paan masala in Kamathipura he had adorned various caps in his life.
He has a graduate degree in Commerce and a post graduate degree in journalism and currently is pursuing an MA in economics from Mumbai University. He finally became a Lawyer and a Human Rights Activist and has fought many landmark legal cases over the years like Ramabai Firing and 1993 Hari Masjid Firing. He has actively campaigned for the implementation of the Sri Krishna Commission Report.

He says that, “Good people so far have kept themselves away from ‘dirty’ politics. It is not the right approach to stay away from politics blaming it to be dirty. If we want to purify it, and we must ourselves have to come into it”. So he stood for the last Assembly election and experienced in the real sense, the dirtiness of elections and how media manipulates to propagate where they see gains. This inspired him to start the first ever local Hindi newspaper “Janata ka Aaina” catering to the 70% of the population of Mumbai who largely live in the slums.

Newspapers are used as handles by political leaders and by large corporations for promoting their propaganda or increase their revenue. None of the papers talk for or talk about the bottom 70% of economic strata. Press coverage are largely meant for consumption of middle class and rich.

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Paid news is becoming a menace with select newspapers controlling tools of public interest and twisting news and facts to the benefit of certain candidates and parties. The above were the exact words used by the newspaper editor during last elections to Shakil. Election Season is Dilwali Time for Newspapers.

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Publish News to Sell Products
Advertisers put pressure on Newspapers to sell more. In an eye-opening survey released last week, major newspapers reported huge surge in profits on advertisements related to luxury items that cater to only 1% of the population. Most newspapers are only publicly admitting now what they have been doing for years now. Publish only selective news for the top 1%.

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Bottom 70% is hungry for news relating to them

Crores of population not just in Mumbai but in our entire country is under served with news. Atrocities against Dalits, minorities, women continue unabated in the country but news media is only obsessed with cricket and other news that sells products.

People’s newspaper is in its 4th year!

Shakil started Janata ka Aaina which runs fortnightly and covers news that is ignored by the mainstream media. Here is the link of the paper

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