Challenging caste supremacy on social media

Nov 30, 2020, 12:30 PM
"Because for a Savarna to do some kind of virtue signalling for the Blacks, they do not have a direct oppressor relationship, if it is rewarding then they would do it why not. But to be able to stand up for people oppressed by their own class, to stand up for reservation which is positive discrimination, to help people oppressed by the Savarna’s own class, it is not like this person is stupid doing a #BlackLivesMatter but not doing it for Dalits," says Prakash, a Savarna from the South Asian diaspora in the US. While most educated dominant caste Indians like to proselytise a general, liberal stance online - the truth on smaller WhatsApp groups and anonymous Twitter accounts remains starkly casteist.

One of the editors of Savarna Rehab, Prakash joins Thenmozhi Soundararajan for a conversation on challenging casteism online and unravelling dominant caste ideals he had grown up with.

"They change their tone based on the anonymity they are getting and also the environment they are in. So on WhatsApp groups they know they are exposed but it is private to that particular group, and they know who exists on the group and who is reading their messages," says Prakash.

As someone with the privilege of being upper-caste in the US, Prakash's livelihood being independent of his caste identity has made it easier for him to introspect. He also knows the casual ignorance, tone-policing, and gaslighting of the oppressed communities from behind a screen all too well.

Savarna Rehab, therefore, was introduced as a medium to hold a mirror up to the ugly realities of caste hierarchy. However, violent threats, unwarranted reporting and frequent bans on Facebook, coupled with silent Brahmins not wanting to get their hands dirty on ignorant comments led to the page eventually shutting down.

"The silence is really built in that lays the framework for impunity. And so being able to talk about these issues or use humour or direct confrontation, we have to do whatever we can to chip away at these hegemonies," observes Thenmozhi, of privileged castes who don't speak up in the face of blatant oppression.