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Wrecking Wikipedia: Erasing history of marginalized communities, defeating purpose of website

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Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

BHOPAL: A social leader who had thousands of supporters, who was scholar of an important but endangered language, someone who got a huge populace take pledge to revive the language.

This man who wrote important books, whose anniversary is remembered and who has monument after him, his 'Wikipedia' page is considered for deletion, and this is done 'by voting' which only a few people aware of and they quickly do it.

Unbelievable it may seem but that's how it happens. This is just one example. The Wikipedia page on Dr Motiravan Kangali has citations, all the information that is needed, links about person's immense contribution from sources ranging from BBC to Bhaskar, Jagran, yet it is 'considered for deletion', with the false claim that this is self promotion, though the person died several years ago.

Not everyone knows but this deletion is through voting and how many vote--10-12! Certain individuals who perhaps work as a group, they are part of such action. Now, Wikipedia's aim was supposed to make knowledge free, it was to put focus on people from communities that didn't have adequate representation, the marginalized, the aim was also to bring women as editors.

However, who would have imagined that people would create handles with a purpose to find a foothold and then erect a wall, be gatekeepers of information? Unfortunately, that's happening in a big way and it's going on unchecked on the biggest human edited ecyclopaedia.

Communities that didn't have access to higher education for long, are being stopped and not allowed to tell their history. There are huge communities whose figures are known in these regions but information about them hasn't reached the internet. Tribal communities that had less access to higher education, can't be stopped in this fashion, from telling the world about their history, heroes. 

And those who shut others' account don't write either but stop others, deter them and try to turn Wikipedia into their own property--drawing power through a strange system, just because they have been there for sometime, a few years. This is totally mind-boggling. How will new people come to the platform? 

Wikipedia's aim was to draw people, not turn them off. However, imagine, a user makes his account, he hasn't published anything, but there are 'editors' who appear from nowhere, go to the extent of 'deletion of account', citing mumbo jumbo, sounding as if they are speaking from pulpit to their subjects.

Remember, the communities who didn't have even 2% among them reach graduation levels till recent past, are now getting to write about their history, their people, unlike other communities or urbanised groups. This must not be forgotten and hence sensitivity is needed, rather than questioning the use of language to erase contribution of people and delete pages. 

And those doing it, seem to work in a planned manner, with a manic urge to remove references about communities. Is it because these leaders are opposed to dominant narrative? Clearly, this needs attention as Wikipedia is too valuable a project, it must remain inclusive and such dishonesty, vandalism should not be tolerated.

NOTE: Dr Motiravan Kangali's books include those on Gond culture, language, grammar and cultural history apart from a dictionary in five volumes. His works on Gondi are immensely important. Gondi is the second most widely spoken tribal language in India. [A lot more about erasing information, with examples would be in next part of this series 'Wrecking Wikipedia]

Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

Journalist for more than 20 years. Had started his career with National Mail in the nineties. Worked as Special Correspondent with Hindustan Times, as an Assistant Editor with DB Post, later Contributing Editor with The Huffington Post, writes for First Post, The Wire, Newsd & several other major publications.