The Indian Catholic Press Association (ICPA) will honor a noted journalist, writer and human rights activist John Dayal by conferring its prestigious annual Louis Careno Award for Excellence in Journalism for his bold, continuous and consistent writing against communalism and fundamentalism gaining ground globally.
The award will be conferred on Dayal during the 27th National Convention of Christian Journalists, organized by the ICPA, scheduled to be held in Chennai on December 10, according to a press statement issued by Ignatius Gonsalves, ICPA president and Suresh Mathew, ICPA secretary.
"Dayal, a prophet of our times, is among India’s foremost voices against human rights violations, particularly the persecution of religious minorities, having been a writer and activist for over four decades," the press note reads.
He has been a member of several government bodies, including the National Integration Council, and holds senior roles in numerous non-government organizations and networks, including as co-founder and Secretary General of the All India Christian Council (1999-2014), national president of the 1919-founded All India Catholic Union between 2004 and 2008, and a member of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI).
He has had a long and distinguished career in the media and academia. He has a long record of investigating and producing substantive and influential documents on communal violence in India, including Hindu-Muslim riots and violence against Sikhs, Muslims and Christians.
He is one of India’s leading experts on the situation in Odisha, following the communal violence in 2008.
He has authored and contributed to several books, and regularly writes articles on human rights issues in India. Major books he has authored, co-authored, or edited include For Reasons of State – Delhi Under the Emergency , republished by Penguin in June 2018; Gujarat 2002 – Told and Untold Stories ; A Matter of Equity ; Reconciliations: A Journey Through Wounded India [with Harsh Mander and Natasha Badhwar, Amazon, 2018]. He has contributed to several books published in India and Europe.
He served as a war correspondent and foreign correspondent in the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia, and Europe. He became editor and CEO of the Delhi Midday and treasurer of the Editors' Guild of India.
In June 1998, Dayal was one of the signatories of a statement by a group of journalists calling on India to return to the global nuclear disarmament agenda. He continues to provide commentary and analysis in print and on national TV and radio.
His incisive writings on political issues have led to soul-searching debates in civil society and the secular world. He minces no words in raising his voice against irrational, biased, and unfair policies and decisions of governments of all times. He also writes on church-related issues without fear or favour. His fierce attack on rising fascist tendencies in India has hit where it matters.
"Dayal is a role model communicator in terms of craft, conviction and commitment," ICPA said.
The Louis Careno Award for Excellence in Journalism, conferred annually to individuals or institutions, is a joint venture of the Mumbai Province of the Salesians of Don Bosco and the ICPA, a premier organization of Catholic journalists, dailies, and periodicals in India founded in 1964 by Father John Barrett, an American Jesuit belonging to the Patna Province.
Dayal thanked for the award conferred on him.
"Thank you, dear friends, for the warmth of your congratulations on the prestigious ICPA award," he told RVA News.
"Awards as heavy as this are also a subtle hint that it is time to retreat into the shadows so that newer generations can be encouraged to rekindle journalism that helps protect and nurture, when possible, the poor, the vulnerable, and the marginalized," he added.
"Awards reflect the warmth of colleagues and comrades engaged in the same work. That is what one cherishes, and it is humbling.
"For me, the award had meaning because the profession faces great challenges from the outside and from within. The crisis in the Wire, Fake news, arrest of young journalists, and right-wing trolls calling truthtellers anti nationals are the new landscape in which reporters have to work. It is not surprising that so few are writing about the human condition, and even fewer are writing about religious minorities and Dalits," Dayal said.
Meanwhile, ICPA also announced two other awards: the ICPA Award for the Best Reportage on Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) and the Swami Devanand Chakkungal Award for Hindi Literature.
The ICPA Award for the Best Reportage on Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST), sponsored by the CBCI Office for Scheduled Castes and Backward Classes, goes to Father Irudaya Jothi "for authentically and consistently being the voice of people’s rights, especially the poor Dalits who are susceptible to exploitation and injustice."
He is a Catholic priest-journalist-activist, belonging to the Society of Jesus, and has been regularly contributing to major national and international news portals, especially on Dalit issues.
"Through the power of reporting and storytelling, Jothi amplifies various aspects of Dalits who have been sidelined by the elite, powerful, and societal structures," ICPA said.
"He has been a compassionate social worker, human rights activist, and journalist for over a decade. His deep sense of love and concern for Dalits, tribals, and the poor have been outstanding. He champions the issues and rights of the marginalized communities, particularly tribals, Dalits, and other vulnerable communities on the periphery," ICPA added.
What stands out about him as a journalist is his deep involvement in the labyrinthine issues of Tribals and Dalits. He critically analyzes the deeper aspects of Dalits and Tribals’ exploitation, subjugation, and injustice, which they face on many fronts. He is not afraid to speak the truth and is frequently heard calling for transparency and accountability.
His sincerity and perseverance in highlighting the rights of Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes show grit, courage, and conviction. His writings showcase the hopes and resilience that deprived people and communities show despite many challenges, deprivations, and exploitations.
The SC/ST Special Award was instituted by the ICPA and sponsored by the CBCI Office for Scheduled Castes and Backward Classes to promote the welfare of marginalized people.
"I am delighted to be honoured in the field of journalism. I am a grassroots worker focused on the empowerment of SC/ST, migrants, and refugees as my ‘optioned’ group," he told RVA News.
"The ‘optioned’ people are continuously being exploited, kept vulnerable, and powerless, and are forced to survive as a mute vote bank, and this honour affirms my stand and encourages me to be their voice, come what may," he added.
"I was encouraged to share their joys and struggles, agonies, aspirations, and hopes through stories for a wider readership," he added.
The ICPA Award for Hindi Literature went to Sister Ganga Rawat, a Catholic nun belonging to the Holy Spirit Congregation based in Indore, Madhya Pradesh, central India.
She has been chosen for the Swami Devanand Chakkungal award for Hindi literature, instituted by the ICPA and sponsored by the Society of Divine Word Congregation, Indore.
Sister Ganga has been using her pen to make the Word of God known to Hindi readers through her writings. She regularly writes articles and poems on social issues, particularly women, girl children, family, and values, which are published in various magazines and newspapers.
She has also contributed opinion pieces and news stories to secular Hindi dailies like Patrika and People’s Samachar, Free Press, Indore Samachar, Kiran Prabhat, Metro Vaartha, and Aagaz-A-Chandan.
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