Project India provided alternative news coverage of the world’s largest exercise in representative democracy: the 2014 General Election in India. A collaborative journalism initiative led by Bournemouth University, it saw BU students working with their counterparts in India. Dr Chindu Sreedharan, the lead academic for Project India, speaks about the initiative.
What was the idea behind Project India?
This was essentially a journalism project — something that allowed students, both at BU and at partner institutions in India, an opportunity to produce first-hand journalism and cover the world’s largest election. At the same time, it was also an experiment in alternative journalism. Project India focussed on voices not always picked up by the conventional media. The objective was to give a voice to the marginalised, to empower the ‘voiceless’. The idea was not to provide an exhaustive coverage of the Indian elections, but instead to present a different take on this significant electoral event, concentrating on non-elite voices and issues not always picked up by mainstream reporters.
Who did you partner with for this project?
We worked with four educational institutions in India. The University of Madras, Amity University, Jai Hind College, and Pondicherry University. In addition, we worked with three online news organisations — Rediff.com, Wonobo.com and Elections.in. Several of our students travelled to India, and in all we published more than 70 news and feature articles. We published on a single-issue web site and several social media channels. In addition, our stories were also picked up by our media partners. In all, 43 young journalists worked on Project India — 15 of them from BU, and 28 from the four Indian institutions.
What would you say you achieved with the project?
For one, an incredible experience for all those involved — it is not every day that we get the opportunity for this sort of international journalism exposure. In terms of scholarship, we also came out with the first edited collection on the Indian election. India Election 2014: First Reflections (including free PDF download), co-edited with Dr Einar Thorsen, came out early in 2015. The election produced unprecedented news coverage of the Indian media, which itself is a remarkable landscape of some 410 news and current affairs TV channels, 250 private FM radio stations, and more than 12,500 newspapers and 81,500 periodicals. And the book was an intervention into the debates surrounding the 2014 election. It had contributions from scholars and practitioners in the US, Australia, UK and India, and we particularly focused on marginalised voices and the plethora of poll discussions that played out on social media.