Ajeet Bahadur has been working as a Community Correspondent for one and a half year. He talks about the changes his work has brought to his life and to his community.
Ajeet Bahadur was part of the first batch of Community Correspondents recruited by Video Volunteers in early 2010. After his training, he started using his camera without any apprehension, as a natural continuation of what he has been doing so far: being a devoted activist, he has been working for several years to help the people around him and has relentlesslycampaigned for change. He has made more than two dozen videos for IndiaUnheard so far, documenting issues as diverse as atrocities committed against Dalits to the recent agitation around the Lokpal bill, always with the same passion and curiosity.
Being a Community Correspondent has deeply transformed him. His knowledge about and comfort with camera technology and computershas dramatically increased, and he is today familiar and at ease with both of them. Being able to use a video camera and a computer is an immense source of pride for Ajeet. But the changes went far beyond that, and Ajeet feels that it is his whole worldview that has been reshaped by his new position as a Community Correspondent. As he puts it “I have been a social activist for over a decade. But since I started working as an IndiaUnheard Community Correspondent, I feel that my understanding of various issues around me has increased and, in many cases, humbled me.”
Not only him, but his communityhas felt the impact of his work. In July 2010, Ajeet made a video called “Horse Carts Lose Race” in which he documented the ordeal of traditional horse rickshaw drivers in Allahabad. At that time, the government of Uttar Pradesh had decided to phase out rickshaws. As a result, about 3000 drivers, most of whomcame from marginalized backgrounds and with no other source of income other than horse cart driving, were struggling to survive. They were harassed daily by policemen and local traders for parking their vehicles inspaces that were previously allotted to them, but that had been grabbed by local businessmen. Ajeet made a video on the issue and showed it to the city commissioner. The latter issued an order to the police and three weeks later the parking spaces were returned to the drivers, enabling them to sustain their traditional means of breadwinning.
Below is AjeetBahadur’s interview, on his personal journey as a Community Correspondent, and the impact he succeeded in bringing into the life of the horse cart drivers.
How did you become a Community Correspondent? And what was your impression of the first training and of your first handling of the camera?
I came to know about IndiaUnheard through my friends. I was immediately interested in the project. I had felt disillusioned with the mainstream media for quite some time, and as a consequence I really liked the idea of community media, the fact that communities usually marginalized could be given the opportunity to voice their problems. I was keen on becoming part of one of the few networks that took up this challenge. So I applied, and it worked!
Then, when I went to the training, I was incredibly excited. I perfectly remember how proud I was when I first used the camera. I also had a feeling of adventure, the impression that I had launched on a really innovative, potentially impactful project.
You’ve been a Community Correspondent for a year and a half now. What are the major changes this brought to your life?
I have gained a lot of respect from my community, since they witnessed how my work could change their lives. Also, my understanding and awareness of the issues around me increased, I am looking at things differently. I also feel a new confidence within me, because of the ability I have to shoot and report whenever needed. When I see a situation that I find revolting or unfair, having the camera and shooting enables me to take immediate action.
You have been an activist for years. How does it combine with being a Community Correspondent?
It’s very complementary. One certainly helps the other.On one hand, having the camera helps me to take action. It is a powerful weapon, and a very effective tool for campaigning. On the other hand,my engagement as an activist provides me with stories that I want to cover, it helps me to be constantly aware of the wrongs that need to be voiced.
You got an impact from your video on the situation of horse cart drivers in Allahabad. How did it happen?
I started shooting these videos because friends of mine, who are also activists, were working on this issue. They felt that they lacked a platform for their campaign, to voice the issue. This is how I stepped in, because they thought that my video could help by raising awareness on the issue. After making this video, and as part of this campaign, I showed my work to the city commissioner. After that, everything went really fast. The city commissioner was sensitized by the video, and therefore accepted to take action. Within three weeks, the horse cart drivers had been re-allotted their parking spaces. Honestly, I was myself surprised by how fast it happened.
How did you feel when you got this impact?
I felt great! Everybody was happy and thankful. I was delighted that my video helped them getting together and fighting for their jobs.The smile on the drivers’ faces was my greatest reward.