A television news anchor, the founder of Asia’ first web channel on arts and the director of home décor and jewellery brand… Sahar Zaman dons many hats at the same time and does justice to each one with equal elan.
A few months back, Sahar actively campaigned for the cause of #MakeOurSchoolsSafe to get answers from experts after a seven-year-old Gurugram boy was found murdered in his school. Not only did it act as a wakeup call for parents across the country, it brought to light a number of loopholes in our school safety system. Sahar talks to www.lifeandmore.in about social issues, her home decor brand and arts scenario in the country…
You are among the few TV anchors who have raised their voice against social issues. Do you think others shy away from being a part of such issues as they are image conscious?
It is important to realise that a medium as powerful as TV news should be used for the benefit of people and social consciousness. But some news anchors raise issues of social justice inside their studio and forget about it once they step out of their bulletins. I think it is important to believe in certain causes of kids’ and humans’ rights to the extent that you practice the same of what you preach on-air. There lies the basic difference. In my personal life, I speak out on issues of women’s protection, child security in schools, labour laws. There is so much of what I learn at work about existing laws and crime that happens every day, all of it which makes it important to be sharing that knowledge with people in helping them know their rights.
Your opinion on the condition that kids, especially girls, are facing in the country today?
It is both heart-breaking and outrageous. Cases such as the Gurugram school boy murder, the Kathua rape of a minor girl and the brazen political intimidation in the Unnao rape case has given me sleepless nights. A lot of what the ruling dispensation says on the protection of children or protection of the girl child is a sham. They don’t walk the talk when the need arises. The situation today in the country today is a mockery of Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao. So many of our MPs, MLAs and ministers come with insensitive mentality. And it is most certainly very irresponsible on our part to be voting them to power.
Any expectations from the government?
Apart from making a few stringent amendments in the Juvenile Justice Act and the POCSO, nothing is happening at the ground level. The government is not paying attention on how to galvanise the police force or hold them accountable for their lackadaisical work. The police has no conviction in dealing with regular cases of stalking, eve-teasing or online abuse. And that makes the criminal feel he/ she can get away with bigger crimes like rape, murder and child-trafficking.
How was the response to #MakeOurSchoolsSafe?
Overwhelming. Also because when I started this campaign on Mirror Now in September 2017, it started with the case of the seven-year-old who was found murdered with his throat slit inside his own school. Parents across the country were in a state of shock. I was flooded with calls and queries on what parents needed to do about being alert with school authorities, on what our Supreme Court says on child protection in school, on what guidelines have been issued by the CBSE to hold the school accountable, what is a corrupt police-government-school nexus to buy security certificates with bribes and a lot of specific inquiries on parents’ rights with respect to school authorities. Unfortunately, a young life had to be lost in a brutal manner for all of us to wake up on this issue.
Any solutions to make educational institutions safer?
A lot of guidelines and laws already exist. The challenge is to ensure these are implemented. Today, we are staring at a situation where we can longer be blind with our trust on the police or on the government or on the school administration. It’s very important for us to self-educate and be informed about existing laws and their implementation. Equally important is to be aware of the corrupt malpractices that are compromising your child’s security. Being naive or ill-informed is silly. For example, it is popular belief that schools are imparting an education service to society. But technically, if you are paying a heavy fees, then education is treated as a commodity which you are buying from the school. Based on this theory, you can take a school to consumer court and seek justice. It is so liberating to be well-informed. It is our only tool, our only weapon.
Don’t you think not only schools but society as a whole needs an overhaul, given the reports of crime against children we keep hearing these days?
Absolutely. But we need to use our collective force as a well-informed society to ensure that the institutions been built to protect us are working honestly. When was the last time you read up on how you can file a case against a police officer who refused to file your FIR in a police station? Besides just being aware of your own rights, it is also important to look at social media as a powerful tool to expose such injustices.
Not only are you an anchor but founder of Asia’s first web channel on arts called Hunar TV, the creator of home décor design and jewellery art under the name of Chamak Patti. Which of these hats do you love donning the most and why?
Honestly, they are all very close to me. I entered journalism because I had the passion to tell real stories, to report on politics and to creatively shoot on culture. I am glad I could make it my profession and mainstay which I enjoy even today, after 17 years. Hunar TV is for the pure love of arts, with the same philosophy of informing people on the varied forms of arts that exist in our country. Chamak Patti is my next step of my own creation of art products for people to enjoy. I can’t show an exceptional preference to either as they are all important to me.
Your take on the art scene in the country, especially in the wake of a spurt of art fairs? Do you think it will help bring art closer to the common man?
I wish there was a sustained spurt in arts shows, art melas and art fairs. Right now, the market is to just about sustain one big annual art fair. The government has not been helping in nurturing either traditional crafts or contemporary arts. The demonetisation drive and the GST on arts has broken that back of our arts market. Handlooms have shut down, traditional brassware industry is facing an all-time loss, contemporary arts auction houses can’t pull off any record sales.