In 2019, Indian journalist, Ravish Kumar received the Ramon Magsaysay award for his prolific performance in journalism. Among many other attributes for which Kumar received the award, one of them read “his principled belief that is in giving voice to the voiceless“, as a part of the citation for the award. These honours stood true only to be tainted by the Oxfam India and Newslaundry report on ‘Who Tells our stories matter: Representation of Marginalised Caste groups in Indian newsrooms’. A prominent key finding of the report stated that 72% of the NDTV Hindi’s news panelists were upper castes.
Further, an article in The Citizen reported events when Indian upper caste journalists like Ravish Kumar have appropriated and sidelined Bahujan voices on their news channels. The article recalls events when the NDTV journalist has called upper castes panel to discuss the lack of diversity in the Parliamentary Cabinet, only invited Dalits, Adivasis or OBCs for discussion on caste and caste based atrocities, hijacked the entire discussion on Rohith Vemula’s systemic murder and similar instances.
Recently, the Savarna krantikari journalist and “voice of the spineless” has yet again exceptionally displayed his caste solidarity and allyship by demanding INR 5 crores as compensation on the demise of anti-islamic and hate monger pro-Hindutva anchor Rohit Sardana. The terrific news anchor, lauded for his “unbiased and fair reporting” by Home Minister Amit Shah, had often engaged in communal, genocidal acts against the Muslim community and relentlessly enabled Brahminical fascism during his journalism career.
Nevertheless, Sharjeel Usmani, an Indian activist among many others was morally policed for condemning the whitewashing of Sardana on his demise by the right wing conservatives. While it seems futile to condemn the right wing for their casteist and anti-minority prejudices, it is the implicit casteism of the progressive and liberal upper castes with the “savarna saviour complex” that is underreported.
Savarna revolutionary models such as Swara Bhaskar, Ravish Kumar, Kunal Kamra among many others are adored for their anti-Hindutva and woke politics by the mainstream liberal political bloc. While there is little hypocrisy that can be mocked in the casteism of the right wing, the one inflicted by such Savarna “caste-saviours” is far reaching. Savarna anti-caste ally is a manipulative identity that desires to elevate the moral image of a caste benefiting person.
The dominant anti-caste discourse adopted by the Savarnas betrays authenticity of any kind of solidarity, as it is nurtured, cultured and evolved within the environment of their own caste. Any posture of allyship is a tacit attempt to use the “not all Savarnas are casteist” narrative and has little to do with showing honest solidarity in action. Savarna allyship is only a duplicity that demands caste reformation and stumbles at the idea of caste annihilation for by doing so they no longer shall reap the innate benefits of their caste privileges.
However, not only do most of the Savarnas like Ravish Kumar fail in denouncing their caste allyship, they also appropriate Bahujan spaces and voices. In the recent Hathras rape crime, Swara Bhasker was seen holding a poster, standing on a car, besides the Bhim Army Chief Chandrashekhar Azad. Bhasker wrongfully claimed and occupied the space of a Dalit woman from the community. Facebook group ‘Revolutionary memes for Bahujan teens’, slammed Bhasker for failing to recognise her own caste privilege and hijacking the protest.
Recently, an Instagram page named ‘Dalit feminist’ posted a list of casteist professors in India where Swara’s mother, Ira Bhasker was listed and challenged for her discriminatory behaviour against Bahujan students in her university at JNU. Hence, it is evident that there is nothing that Savarnas do except reap the benefits of their family’s privileged position. There is no acknowledgement and effort whatsoever to unlearn and challenge casteism in their intimate spaces.
On the contrary, they are rewarded for their performative actions amongst their liberal circles. Their “radical” anti-caste position gives them credibility in the media, while anti-caste activists who are caste survivors are criminalised. There is an inherent tendency among the progressive Savarnas to liberate the caste victims from subjugation and oppression often seen in the imagery of violence and atrocities. It gives them a moral high ground to show their “otherness” from the kind.
The progressive Savarnas are a unique avatar-a perfect combination of sophistication, cultural currency and critical faculty that entitles them to dole out their perspectives on caste. The academic progressives view caste as a mere subject of intellectual rigour, capitalise on caste trauma and overlook the humanity in caste survivors. Other Savarnas like Kanhaiya Kumar and Kunal Kamra effortlessly maintain the status-quo by avoiding conversations on caste and their caste privileges. Thus, all of them fail to bring any real intent in their anti-caste allyship and prove unfit for substantial participation in the transformatory movement for caste emancipation.
Real solidarity is in action. It is one that comes from listening, empathising, recognising and amplifying. It is not one that requires an audience and an anti-caste credential or name tag. There is no allyship in condemning structural inequalities only to be benefited by one’s cultural capital, burn Manusmriti to later celebrate festivals that are inherently casteist and exploitative towards the community, to speak for us without acknowledging and unlearning your own biases, participate in our protest only to gaslight us for being reactive and radical in our discourses and condemn caste atrocities only to ignore the pervasiveness of caste in academic, corporate, recreational and media spaces. It is about time that Savarnas thoroughly introspect and renounce their caste inhibitions and manifest honest dispositions in the anti-caste movement.
- Savarna Progressive, a Mischievous Misnomer
- How to Tell the Difference Between Real Solidarity and ‘Ally Theater’
- Caste, Friendship & Solidarity
Featured Image Source: Cartoon by Unnamati Syama Sundar