Youth Participation Is Essential For A Casteless Society

On 28th August 2020, Tularam Athya, from Madhya Pradesh spoke with Pratishtha Arora from Social Media Matters. He is known for working on the caste system at the grassroots. He is a social activist and national head of Dalit Solidarity Committee. Tularam recently started Bahujan Samvaad an online initiative during lockdown. On the 11th Episode of Dalit Lives Matter, he shared insights of his work with team SMM.

You can watch the complete live episode here:

As an opening note Pratishtha shared the work SMM has being doing to eradicate caste discrimination in the online spaces and shared, “Social Media Matters (SMM) is working on casteism for a long time as it is mostly known for online safety initiatives. The casteist slurs online are being examined and observed by SMM team in order to find solutions to end it through artificial intelligence. Online space is turning into hate speeches related to caste based remarks these days. SMM has done pan India research to know and understand about these online abusers. We have also collected several words through our sample survey on their meaning in different parts of the country.”

On being asked about experiences on working on caste system and origin of his work, Tularam said, “I started this work 25 years ago. The main reason was the caste based discrimination in society especially when it comes to the Dalit community. I had witnessed the discriminatory practices in my village since childhood. During any social function Dalits were made to sit separately and were often served food near cowshed. There was also a separate allotted space for Dalits near the well. These experiences made me realize each one of us must get equal opportunities in society. Even after 70 years of independence there’s not much change in villages.”

When questioned about the impact of his on ground and offline initiatives on people’s mindset in terms of caste system, Tularam shared, “Wherever we’ve worked at a societal level there have been some changes, untouchability especially has been reduced to some extent. But the villages where there’s no effort towards social reformation, we do not see any such changes.” He further added, “The radicalization and Dalit oppression has seen a rise since 2014.”

When asked about using social media, Tularam said, “I mostly use Facebook and WhatsApp as medium of online connectivity. I’ve a Twitter account but I rarely use it. I’m frequently active on Facebook and also have formed many WhatsApp groups to disseminate valuable information”

Reality of the online and offline world in terms of caste system, Tularam opined, “There’s a huge difference between field work and online work. We can’t do online work with those living in villages.” He further added, “As far as misuse of social media is concerned, it’s the same as on ground atrocities. Through social media abusive language is often used to exploit Dalit community and its women.”

Pratishtha said, “We collaborated with some people from Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka, who told us about some words that we included in our list. In the context of the caste system often such words or their reference is used in the online medium.”

On being asked about any particular caste based words used in his native, Madhya Pradesh, Tularam said, “Some caste related words are used often to insult people. They just want to convey that you belong to a lower caste.”

When Pratishtha questioned youth participation in creating awareness about caste based realities, Tularam said, “Today’s youth is educated and sensible. The yesteryear’s generation wasn’t much educated.” He further added, “The youth can create WhatsApp groups for spreading awareness. Most importantly I believe if the youth works at ground level to create awareness it’s quite impactful. Since, these are the COVID – 19 times, so we should try to use social media effectively.”

On awareness and activism during COVID times, Tularam said, “We’ve been using social media to convey our ideas and connect with people for creating awareness. WhatsApp is used to connect with usually senior citizens. We’ve been conducting ‘Bahujan Samaj,’ live sessions at a national level on Facebook. Our sessions have included eminent intellectuals like Professor Anand Kumar. We spoke on many burning issues in our society.”

About inspiring young activists to use social media for social change, Tularam said, “I appeal to all our friends and intellectuals to use social media as much as possible to convey our ideas.” He further added, “The oppressed and downtrodden sections need to use social media to raise their voices. We can communicate our thoughts and issues to society in a better way through Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp.”

While concluding Tularam conveyed Dr. B R Ambedker’s message to people on caste system. He stated, “If we have to make a casteless society then our youth should move ahead in the same direction. We need to encourage inter – caste marriages as Babasaheb had rightly said. Then only the caste system could be abolished. Unless we break these caste based barriers this discrimination won’t end. Our youth will have to make strong efforts.”
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