Dalit Women’s Online Experience Is Marginalization Within Marginalization

Rachelle Bharati Chandran is an activist known for her work on Dalit rights. She is an academic and writer. Rachelle spoke to Pratishtha Arora, Programme Manager at Social Media Matters on Dalit Lives Matter Twitter live session.

Rachelle said, “There’s lack of support for Dalit community. Social media has mirrored the caste network that exists in reality. Twitter is full of people who’re casteist. The mechanism of reporting a tweet is problematic because it harasses in terms of race and personal abuse.”

You can watch the complete live episode here:

On ground reality of caste discrimination in offline and online space, she emphasized, “Online spaces are reflective of whatever happens offline. The Twitter mechanisms have become better some ways. Things have changed in terms of how people would interact in issues such as caste today than it was ten year ago at the online spaces. News about lynching or scavenging is getting more acknowledgment in the present scenario. Today there is a lot more engagement especially among young people on matters where there is injustice in society. A lot young people from privileged sections may not necessarily talk about these issues even today.” Rachelle further added, “We’re in an academic bubble where we think things have changed. Even in present times if I go searching a house I’ve to face extreme difficulty in finding one. This is happening in urban areas. For young people finding an accommodation questions about caste do come across.” She also said, “Dalit community is going through these common problems. But what has changed is that we’re able to mobilize. Whether it is about students or mental health support we can connect and let each other know we’re not alone in this. We can create support groups which has been the biggest change.”

Rachelle feels according to Dalit women’s concerns on gender online – experience it is marginalization within marginalization. She said, “One of the ways in which we as women connect sharing is through experiences in the world. The casteist slurs thrown at Priyanka Paul is awful. I have faced such abusive behaviour in college as well as in online spaces.”

When asked about how can youth escalate the discourse to end caste discrimination, Rachelle opined, “It is about making spaces for people by listening to them. If more individuals are willing to engage and take the initiative we can have a stronger community.”

Pratishtha said, “A lot of youth is writing on case issues these days. People are voicing out during the pandemic especially.”

On social media viral videos related to Dalit atrocities Rachelle pointed out, “Before videos on caste violence are visible in online spaces or covered by mainstream media they’re circulated in smaller groups. I’ve come across 20 such videos in mainstream news channels that are accessed from these groups. Apart from the violence and torture the reason videos on atrocities are made is also to humiliate the victim in front of people. Public humiliation is an additional thing above any other violence that is inflicted.” She further added, “When such videos get circulated among smaller groups, for a lot of activists it is about protecting the victim’s identity. When we see such videos it’s extremely triggering content regardless of what they’re suffering from. When we put such things on social media it is to make everyone realize that this needs to be highlighted and needs support of people.

About inspiring young leaders to use twitter for social change, Rachelle said, “There's a need for spaces where we can have discussions about caste. When you remain silent all your life and suddenly come across writings on Ambedkar, Jyotirao Phule or an Obama, somebody who’s capturing the experiences you’ve had. Reading is one way for young people to engage in such dialogues. I’ve met so many young people who’re connecting with others to mobilize them on Twitter and Instagram. We should try to give whatever support we can.”
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