Dalit Lives Matter: A New Consciousness In Society

Pratishtha Arora, Programme Manager at Social Media Matters, interacted with Priyanka Samy for Dalit Lives Matter, Twitter live session. Priyanka is a member of National Federation of Dalit women and has been working towards a social justice movement, She is also a member of UN Women National Gender Youth Activists.

Sharing her story, Priyanka says, “I was born into a family of social activists. Both my parents have worked at grassroots for over forty years. My mother is known for her work on Dalit Feminism in India post the Ambedkar era. My maternal grandmother was born in a poor Dalit household in Tamil Nadu and her father was a daily wager and he had to feed a family of about 8- 10 people by himself.” She further added, “My grandmother was rolled in garbage when she was born and she was named ‘Kupuma’ which means ‘garbage’ in Tamil. They named her garbage because her family had prayed for a boy instead of a girl to be born.”

You can watch the complete live episode here:

Speaking about Black Lives Matter and its relevance in social justice for Dalits, Priyanka shared, “today we’re at an important juncture where we express our solidarity with our African – American citizen brothers with Black Lives Matter movement. But the narrative of discrimination, hate, bigotry is way too familiar. The Blacks and the Dalit’s have been long working towards building a social justice movement against a specific structural oppression and the systemic violence. With George Floyd murder the need to strengthen our movements is sort of highlighted like never before. Our realities no matter which part of the globe we live is intersected by social identity and power structures like race, caste, gender, class, sexual orientation, disability, etc. That’s why I think there is much to learn in our quest for social justice. If you look at the caste system it’s the long surviving social hierarchy in the world. It sanctions exclusion and discrimination from socio, economic and political lines.” Priyanka also pointed out, “Despite the exclusions Dalits are facing across the country, I think we’re pushing the social boundaries in some sense by bringing about transformative changes in our community. I think today the community is focusing on collectively building and helping each other. In online spaces we are fast learning to organize ourselves, to decentralize knowledge and create templates to collaborate and co learn. Through online platforms we’re trying to extend our advocacy in mobilization strategy. In a way we’re showing incredible resilience and innovation.”

On the recent video where upper caste men forced a Dalit man to drink urine, Pratishtha stated, “People don’t have any emotions left. It was very difficult to see that video.” On being questioned about conveying to the youth to not use discriminatory abuses even as jokes, Priyanka feels it is important to know the way caste functions which is a classic example of social networking. She answered “Caste has existed even before social media platforms started. It's years of conditioning. We’re talking about a system that’s three thousand years old. What’s happening to Dalit’s in these online platforms is the reflection of what our society is. In the virtual world there are caste based WhatsApp and Facebook groups. The cringe worthy Netflix series reinforces casteism, racism, colourism, etc.” Priyanka further opined, “I think we in our own small ways as individuals need to sort of push back. We also need to have some sort of constructive engagements with our friends in colleges, communities, etc. We need to sensitize people because more than often they don’t know any better because of years of conditioning. Hence, we really need to engage with upper caste folks and educate them.”

Concluding the session, Priyanka pointed out, “We have a long way to go. In our country we see how laws are undermined. We have laws but we do not have legal support for the victims. The impunity in case of sexual assault need to be strongly addressed by the law.” She also opined, “One thing I’m certain about is we’ll continue to resist and fight in both the real and virtual world. This will be the beginning of new consciousness in society.”

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