September 30, 2020
Hello and welcome to All Indians Matter. I am Ashraf Engineer.
This episode is going live on World Podcasting Day 2020, so today I want to talk about why I launched All Indians Matter.
As I record this episode, the COVID-19 pandemic is raging and has claimed nearly 100,000 Indian lives. It’s a sobering landscape that has been preceded by six years of social turmoil sparked by a government that believes in religious supremacism and has pushed the economy off a cliff. It has compromised Constitutional processes and made a mockery of Parliament. All this has been facilitated by several fawning media outlets that have refused to stand up and do their job. They have failed to tell truth to power. They have failed in taking up issues that should matter to the nation. They have failed in fighting against the injustices that have become the norm.
As a former journalist who spent 17 years in the profession, I found this disturbing. I wondered why so many journalists had abandoned their duty, leaving just a handful to tell the nation what it needed to hear. I didn’t have the resources of a media house, I didn’t have a team and I couldn’t imagine returning to newsrooms.
So, I acted as a citizen. I launched www.allindiansmatter.in in early 2020 as a digital home for high-quality commentary on the issues that truly matter. It’s a home for conversations with and about India. It seeks to explain also how things like government debt or the new farm laws impact your lives directly.
For most of our post-Independence years, this was done by the news media but now the issues that should be highlighted are sidelined and the voices that should find a megaphone are muffled. The website is a citizen’s effort to engage through commentary with anyone who cares about India, its Constitution, and its liberal and secular values.
I also teach at various media and communication colleges, so, young Indians aged 18 to 30 became my target audience. I see a spark in them that fills me with hope for the future and they will remain the focus of All Indians Matter.
If I, a common citizen, can do it, so can the media. I believe that, as citizens, we can’t stand by and watch as our democracy is wrecked and the fabric of our country is ripped apart thread by thread. I am hoping that more people will speak up. This is no time for silence. It’s time to be noisy, argumentative, outspoken and driven Indians again.
I have found support from columnists with intact spines and other social commentators, who write for the website along with me. All Indians Matter, inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, launched with no marketing whatsoever and with a stated ambition of being non-commercial. At least for now I will take no advertising on the website, ensuring total independence. It is self-funded, and proudly so. At a later stage, I could look to monetise it but not if it compromises editorial integrity. I could consider various models – from condition-free advertising to grants, reader funding or subscriptions. I don’t know where it will go. Or if it will go anywhere at all.
As the number of columns on the website grew along with the range of topics – from the economy to education and social issues, even journalism itself – I started experimenting with videos. It was interesting but I felt I wasn’t suited to it. That’s when Ideabrew Studios asked if I’d like to extend the effort to a podcast.
Having done a spot of web radio in the past, I jumped at the idea. And, given my focus on the young, it made sense to be on the platforms that they’re on.
It’s been a learning curve that’s still continuing and one that I find very fulfilling.
This is a passion project executed in my personal capacity, so the only returns I have are in the form of messages, calls, online engagement and the goodwill that I have received from the audience and the engagement on the All Indians Matter Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. And that’s all I need.
Thank you for listening. Please visit www.allindiansmatter.in for more columns, videos and audio podcasts. You can follow me on Twitter at @AshrafEngineer and @AllIndiansCount. Search for the All Indians Matter Facebook page. On Instagram, the handle is @AllIndiansMatter. Catch you again soon.