‘Caste’ is a trump card in Indian politics. And it’s not surprising to see the politicians and their parties using caste in public rallies and election campaign. Recently, Twitter Chief Jack Dorsey landed himself in a ‘social media storm’ after a picture of him with a placard stating ‘smash Brahminical patriarchy’ started doing rounds on the internet. The placard had been given to him by a group of Dalits rights activists. From some quarters, Dorsey was accused of racial hatred and a senior parliamentary official even went on to prosecute him for attempting to ‘destabilize the nation’.
India is destabilized on a daily basis, minute-by-minute by the politicians and their juntas. With four state assembly elections undergoing and Lok Sabha polls just around the corner, media, the fourth estate, does not hesitate to hold the government accountable for its decisions and policies but were found evasive on caste violence and atrocities.
Caste in India is very much complicated and the Conversation has rightly described it as “similar to the idea of race, but can be perpetuated by those within the same ethnic group. It originated in Hinduism but has been absorbed by Muslims, Christians and Sikhs.” Centuries of caste-based discrimination has enabled deep economic inequalities that still influence the opportunities and rewards given to individuals. The Indian Constitution has enshrined affirmative action programs for Dalits (this group has been discriminated for ages) and other marginalized groups in the public sector. But across the Indian economy, they continue to occupy the lowest rungs.
The Twitter Chief coincidentally brought it in the open once again. The Conversation states that Twitter has given Dalit women and other marginalized people a platform to voice their concerns but it has also facilitated trolling and abuse.
“In November, a student leader Shehla Rashid with more than 500,000 followers quit the platform as an ‘SOS call to Twitter’. She described this social media platform as “an ecosystem of toxicity and negativity”. The think tank elaborates that she must have been the reason Dorsey met with the Dalit rights group “to hear their firsthand concerns about the way Twitter facilitates abuse and threats.”
In the end Dorsey was himself trolled and abused on the platform. Probably because he has no clue about how casteism is embedded in India. A journalist Sidharth Bhatia described the whole incident as hypocritical. “Twitter apologized to those very people whom the poster was calling out, only because they are noiser and better organized”, said Bhatia.
While social media, in this case Twitter, gives a platform to all voices, the voice and issues of marginalised segments of society continues to be erased and invisibilised.