I measure the progress of the community by the degree of progress which women have achieved.” – Dr. B.R. Ambedkar

Dalit Bahujan Adivasi women in Indian history have a reputation of questioning the authority. Be it Thangajam Manorama, be it Comrade Sruthi or Bhaarathi Madiga, each of them were killed while fighting for the rights and were inspired by Savitribai Phule, Baby Kamle, Rajavva who brought revolution not only in the lives of Dalits but also in the lives of all women. One such inspiration is Prof. Sujatha Surepally.

Prof. Sujatha Surepally is a well renowned academician and Principal of the University College of Arts, Social Science and Commerce with Satavahana University, Karimnagar, where she has been teaching sociology for more than 10 years. 

On December 25th, Manusmriti Dahan Din, Dalit students of Satavahana University held a democratic protest by burning the Manusmriti inside the campus. The students were attacked by the Hindutva goons (outsiders of the campus) and the goons systematically targeted the vulnerable Dalit students.

A few Facebook pages (profiled by the Hindutva ideologies) have been circulating defamatory and discriminating posters on Prof. Sujatha Surepally who is a Dalit woman. One of the pages that show a staunch Hindu ideology has been propagating a false propaganda that Prof. Sujatha Surepally had burnt the poster of ‘Bharat Mata’ and is instigating ‘naxal’ ideology. The comments section is filled with misogynist, casteist and abusive words towards Prof. Surepally.

Translation: Surepally Sujatha is her name, a Professor at Satavahana University. She’s the one who burnt the mother India poster and is destroying the lives of students with Naxalite ideology.” In the post, it is written: “Comment as an Indian, otherwise, everyone who sees this post is as good as dead. Surpanaka’s nose and ears were cut off by Lakshmana once upon a time. What do you do with her now?

Unlike many arm chaired academicians and intellectuals, Prof. Surepally is always seen more of an activist on field that makes an impressive mark on the credibility of statements, movements (political and social) and assertions. She was successful in forming a systematic pressure over the state machinery that was irrefutably an impetus to the arrest of Bharat Reddy (who attacked two Dalit youths). The most important and noticeable move is that she has utilized social media and online networking sites for mass mobilization apart from other traditional media that led to the counter bargaining power for the Dalits.

Prof. Surepally is mostly identified with Dalit movements and Dalit-Bahujan organizations. Being a dedicated and progressive activist who is very different from many other activists who suffer from ideological fundamentalism, she is always ready to battle for the rights of the many oppressed sections. Her identity as a Dalit and a woman has pushed her into a situation of vulnerability and landed her in a targeted campaign of online sexual harassment. 

Today, where we are forced towards “Digital India”, it is inevitable that we step into the digital world for our sustenance and everyday work. Social media is not only an instrument for mobilization but also a place for mobs of privileged sections to gather, hence exclusion. Identities, where our surnames (prefixes or suffixes) reveal the caste/community, names hint the religion, gender creates a “vulnerability” inducing violence.

Prof. Surepally is being targeted online on Facebook by Hindutva goons and is falsely accused of burning images of ‘Bharat Mata’. She has been called anti-national and insinuated that she is spreading naxalism in the university. She has clearly stated that these are outright lies and that she was not even in the university that day – she was in Hyderabad. The professor has filed a complaint with the Karimnagar Police Commissioner against BJP spokesperson Bandi Sanjay, and the women’s and minority wings of the RSS for defaming and harassing her.

We must condemn the online sexual harassment against Prof. Sujatha Surepally. It is a crime according to the Indian law and amounts to great mental trauma. Online harassment has also proved to be dangerous to one’s physical safety, as in the case of Qandeel Baloch, and we must stand with Prof. Surepally and call out the Hindutva goons.


Featured Image Credit: The News Minute

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