Newspaper Gets Scoops In India, With Staff Of Street Kids

There are millions of Indian children in need.
There are millions of Indian children in need.
Jasvinda Sehgal

NEW DELHI â€" The journalists gathered for an editorial meeting at their newspaper in the Indian capital. Their work includes hard-hitting reportage and investigative scoops that other publications in the country followed up on.

The group of journalists are unlike most others. They live on the streets. And they are all under the age of 18.

Their paper, a New Dehlhi monthly called Balaknama or ‘Voice of Children,’ publishes stories of children living and working on the streets. Exploring topics such as child sexual abuse, child labor and police brutality, the newspaper has doubled in size from its original four pages, and is now sold across the city at a nominal price of two Indian rupees, or about $.02 cents. It’s free for other street children, of course.

India is home to more than 10 million street children, a population that is vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. An NGO called Childhood Enhancement through Training and Action, or "Chetna," recruits the street children as reporters from the group’s learning centers.

The newspaper’s latest edition was dedicated to the ‘International Day of Street Children,’ which was celebrated on April 12. The paper’s editor, 17-year-old Chandni, has a story about children living on railway platforms and contains a startling investigative revelation: “A few of them told me that the police force the children living at the railway stations to retrieve the bodies of people who are killed on the railway tracks," she says. “The children say that if they refuse, the police won't allow them to stay on the railway platform.”

Among the lucky

This is not Chandni’s first job. After her father died, she was forced to sell flowers at traffic lights to earn money. But she counts herself as one of the lucky ones: she met volunteers from the Chetna organization who encouraged her to go to school and offered her a modest stipend to keep her off the streets. The group also trained her as a reporter for Balaknama, where Chandni has worked since 2008.

Hot off the presses in New Delhiâ€" Photo: KBR

The paper, which is distributed at police stations, child rights’ NGOs and government departments, has a staff of 70 reporters between the ages of 12 and 18, who are based in bureaus in Delhi as well as the neighboring states of Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.

Liza, 13, was scavenging and begging at the railway station, and was hooked on cigarettes, alcohol and marijuana, before meeting volunteers from Chetna. “They told me about Balaknama but said that if I wanted to join I would have to quit all my vices. I managed to do it and I’m now enrolled in eighht grade,” she said.

The reporters at Balaknama are split into two. The children who cannot write are known as ‘talking reporters’ and dictate their stories to the ‘writer’ reporters.

Liza started off as a talking reporter but has since been promoted to a writer position. She said her best story so far was about four children aged between 6 and 7 who had been working at a roadside restaurant. "They were rescued with the help of my NGO, and then I reported the story in my newspaper,” she said.

It wasn’t the only time officials were forced to take action. Another story published in the paper recently prompted India’s National Committee for the Protection of Child Rights, the top government agency for children, to take steps against the police.

Chandni, the editor, said she hopes the paper will continue to empower street children in India by hearing â€" and telling â€" their stories.

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What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel


BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.

Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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