Below, I have copy-pasted the one thread I wrote on twitter that I would like to save as a reminder to self for staying away from social media for good. Blogging is fine, I would like an outlet, but I honestly don’t want to fight online.
I write this, as I mull the decision to delete my twitter handle @MedicalActivist. The one big time sucker that social media has devolved into is the biggest ‘experiment-gone-heinously-wrong’ of this generation. You are only allowed echo chambers here.
One word of disagreement, and people will descend on you. It gets harder if you are holding your position individually, all by yourself. And have a real life outside of twitter. And people in that real life start to get affected by your upset mood, because of the fight that happened on your anonymous twitter account with another twitter account. In retrospect, being active on social media seems akin to being a fighter cock.
I will continue to blog, because I need an outlet for thoughts and also a place to compile things I would like to save for posterity. In the past, I have come off of Facebook and a previous twitter handle. In sequence, the reasons were (1) political fights and (2) getting hounded for my address and times of returning home. So, I chose complete anonymity, as complete as I could make it. In the beginning, my tweets were written so carefully that most on the medium had trouble guessing my gender. My gender – female- became more apparent after my strong opposition to Hindu Traditionalists – a group, constituted largely by men, that believes in marrying girls off early to fight the decreasing Hindu population as compared to Muslims, that is okay with ideas like “Hindu women who marry outside the community should be burnt”. I was still able to take most fights in my stride, until I disclosed my caste identity.
The copy-pasted portion below is the twitter thread I had written.
“Twitter has been a saddening experience, a rude shock that has left me disillusioned, altering my political views forever. I had always held that all the so-called lower castes need to do to override casteism and
#CasualCasteism is to focus on academic,professional achievements. I had believed that by rising high by working hard, one can do away with labels that are stamped on one at birth. This had led me to believe the claims of casteism being a thing of the past, and that the so-called upper castes do not view anyone as “lower” anymore. From that baseline, stemmed all beliefs and actions. From that baseline, stemmed a very clear understanding of equality and its status as an inalienable human right. Equality of opportunity, equality of marriage, equality of genders. Hence, my avowed opposition to reservation of ANY kind. Compete on the same front, win and you will be respected as an equal, was a belief I stood by. I still think it is below me to seek accommodations of ANY kind. It adds to your confidence when you achieve things w/o crutches.”
On twitter, in conversations adorned with intellectualism, I felt I had met the best of people, until they revealed their casteism to me. It is increasingly a badge of honor for some here. Is it simply
#CasualCasteism or it is too simplistic an adjective for a deeper malice?
I am now inclined to believe it is the latter. In a DM group, in which I was for most of 2016 and 2017, I came across comments like ” We UCs should band together for our benefits..”. I wondered what made the person decide everybody in the group was a UC (so-called upper caste). I asked, well, what is caste? Pat came the reply that it is now an economic class. Another person, a well-educated post-graduate in her field, said,”One child brahmin families have to terrorise our kid to get 98% “… b/c of reservation menace. FYI,non-brahmin, single child here. This person, had also said on public TL, “Upper castes were advanced because of their own hard work.” All comments had been made by women. One twitter scholar had proclaimed how brahmins are the most discriminated group today. When I pointed out humiliating casteist jokes, most in the group did not bother to acknowledge. Another twitter scholar graced a few tweets in that context with a few likes but did not use the huge following at disposal to broadcast opposition.”
Soon enough, I witnessed repeated instances of nauseating linguistic chauvinism. A bit of digging around confirmed my suspicions and our ways on twitter have since parted. In the months that ensued, I saw more and more instances of
#CasualCasteism (Egs filed under hashtag). After my recent TL conversation with a lady, who incidentally reminds me of a namesake in that DM group with very similar views, I realized something. That people who were my friends, may not have opened up to me similarly, had they known my “caste”. Conversely, had “caste” been a primary aspect of my identity, I wouldn’t have had a chance to experience their views upfront. So here goes, at birth, I was labeled Shudra. Shudra. Shudra. Shudra. Shudra…..
When I first found out, aged 9 or 10, I had burst into tears. I still remember the sting of those tears. Why me? Later that year, when I changed schools, and still topped despite missing a few tests held earlier, the headmistress insisted on a surname for handing out certificates. My family hadn’t prepared me for the onslaught that followed. Who prepares a young school-going child for questions on surname? The headmistress wouldn’t budge. Her final shot was,”Are you ashamed of your surname?”
FYI, the school was so confident that a mid-term joinee couldn’t top that they hadn’t tallied my marks. I had to go fight for my certificates that day. Man, I learned this young. Years went by. I had friends prodding me, throughout my educational career, about my “jaat”. Random questions. “Tum Kayastha ho?” “Tum Brahmin ho?” So much so that, I was convinced that all I needed was a surname and things would be all right. Twitter – this place where words can be your only identity if you so choose – was a catharsis of sorts. Until I realized, that everybody assumed the same thing here. That I had to be an “Upper Caste”.If one is anti-left, anti-islamism, by some logic, they can only be “UC”. The invisibility struck me, deep within. I thought back to some sickening jokes I had seen people in my family crack, against other castes. Why? Why do you need to do that? That’s a silly way of seeking a reprieve.
Every time I opposed a casteist joke within my family — Shudra — I found out one more story of injustice and discrimination. Of people being failed in final pot-graduate exams once the examiner discovered their caste. Of being pursued for marriage till caste was discovered. Of a great-grandfather who showed the initiative under british raj to buy a zamindari, being made to stand by an upper-caste zamindar b/c it was beyond possible that he could be offered a seat. Is all this still casual enough to be labeled
#CasualCasteism ? Stories of another great-grandfather who escaped slavery and starvation by fleeing to Kolkata and starting from the scratch. I shiver as I type all this — What use was their initiative and effort, if I am still facing problems of the same kind? What exactly changed? ZILCH.
This is my final take : Not only should the so-called lower caste give up its baggage of having been discriminated against, the so-called upper caste must shed its “caste pride” – basking in reflected glory of ancestors and current-day same caste members. Unless you meet in the middle, there will be no way out of reservations. That is the only form of protection that is available to these groups. It is fair to call for an assessment of current day reservation schemes, to see they are indeed benefiting those they should.
But first, root the deeper evil out.
In the said twitter thread, content of which is copy pasted above, I had asked if those who carry so-called upper caste labels would give their surnames up. The answer was a resounding no with a lot of attendant viciousness. Most dehumanized my experiences and called them fake. They authoritatively declared that NOBODY identifies themselves as “Shudra” and people only identify themselves by the particular sub-caste they ‘belong’ to. I don’t hate any individual, but I would like it for people to at least empathize with those at the lowermost end of the caste hierarchy.
If opinions are not allowed, what is the point of social media? I am happy in my little blog space.
To @Shudraism and @AbbakkaHypatia, thank you for standing by, though we don’t exactly belong to the same side of the political aisle. To Garima @gary_agg, your ground work is unbeatable and you are a lovely person. To @grim_malkin Vidhu and CholericCleric : Haha, guys. Wish I had more time to be friends with you.
To Manini and Abhijeet : Thank you, warmest regards to you both. Abhijeet : We can successfully ward the threats of regionalism off as long as people like you are around. Manini, milenge kabhi, iss janam mein pakka.
To @DrLatha, well, since you so readily agreed with @GhorAngirasa that “my inferiority complex is my problem”, I wonder what our extended, heart-to-heart conversations in the DM group were about. Did the medical opinions you sought of me – twice – ever display incompetence or “an inferiority complex”? No, I can confidently say they didn’t . It doesn’t hurt to admit your own mistakes, once in a while. I was almost ready to disclose my identity to you, and then I found how ingrained the utterly flawed concept of ‘caste pride’ was in you. I wish you peace, and your child the success she clearly deserves.
To @Shanmukh, @sarkar_swati (Saswati) and @Dikgaj : Phew, what a ride. I had always been against striking, agitating, anything leftist. And yet, I ended up in the no-good world of social media activism. As academic professors, here are a few things you should never do — instigate younger folks, recruit them, mold them, make them your foot soldiers. As academic professors, you should be more open about accepting evidence that counters your stances and you should be more open about your stances getting countered. Nobody can know everything, you know. That includes all three of you.
To Hindu Traditionalists : I don’t have anything against any individual. My opposition is to the idea that you represent, not to the individuals you are. I am sure you are all good providers for your families.
To everybody : I am sure that all of you mentioned above are excellent providers for your families, that you are committed to raising them well and that should our paths ever cross in person, you and I will be courteous to each other, and help each other out. If this is an illusion, so be it. I would like for some illusions to stay.
To Myself : Remember this gross waste of time and energy. Remember that the more things change, the more they remain the same. Remember that not thinking too much is the more efficient thing to do. Remember that real people around you need you more than twitter handle owners you will likely NEVER meet.