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The Ally Theatre Of Savarna Solidarity

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The Ally Theatre Of Savarna Solidarity
4 mins read

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.

Also read: The Search For Caste Solidarity: Dalit Women In India And Nepal

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.

New Delhi: Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad and Bollywood actress Swara Bhaskar during a protest against the alleged gang-rape of a 19-year-old Dalit woman in Uttar Pradesh’s Hathras, at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi, Friday, Oct. 2, 2020. (PTI Photo/Ravi Choudhary)

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.

Also read: The Modern Savarna And The Caste-Is-Dead Narrative

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.

References

  1. Savarna Progressive, a Mischievous Misnomer
  2. How to Tell the Difference Between Real Solidarity and ‘Ally Theater’
  3. Caste, Friendship & Solidarity

Featured Image Source: Cartoon by Unnamati Syama Sundar 

8 COMMENTS

  1. Are there any tools for unlearning caste in India. There needs to be mass education/ caste sensitisation (for Savarna) and caste education (for DBAs). Just like sex education and gender sensitivity training programs. The Ambedkarite movements needs to do something on this aspect. Then lobby MPs and MLAs from reserved constituencies to push for such programs in government offices, educational institutions and even private institutions.

    • The only way is interact with people and mingle, inter marry and let there be diffusion of people across the barriers. Education will happen on its own. This is not something you can read in a book and learn or can be taught in a school. If you mingle with people from a young age, prejudices tend to die. You are less likely to carry prejudices or be influenced by one. WE NEED MORE Schools where it is not just elites going. So all PRIVATE SCHOOLS should be mandated to take in diverse children.

  2. Hi Mansi , I accidentally came across this article and what a trash it seemed to me.
    Reasons- In whole article, yo spend paras whining about Ravish, Swara who actually take stance against casteism and other upper caste discriminationatory behaviour. So what you actually want? That only SCs should talk about the issue? By this logic, only the appressed should speak everywhere. No Hindu in India should talk about Minorities rights, No Muslim in Pakistan should talk about Minorities rights in Pakisatn. No white should speak in favor BLM. You pinpointed that car instance where Swara climbed upon with Azad. “Bhasker wrongfully claimed and occupied the space of a Dalit woman from the community. Did she stop other women to raise the voice? You have problem with Hindu RW as they perpetuate the discrimination but you also have problem with other savarnas who bring attention to the discrimination (Kunal Kamra does talk about privilege if you follow him on twitter or youtube). And by your logic, you should not have written this article firstly because you are taking space of some DAlit girl who could have written her own article. I hope you understood my query and will reply. Stay home, stay safe.

  3. In absolute awe. This is brilliance. Thank you, thank you, thank you. To the WRITER, and Team FII!

  4. Mansi, one of the more sensible articles I have read and I could not agree more with you. Leadership and representation has to come from within. You cannot have representatives from the elite groups that have been entitled all their lives. I liked your cartoon where “You are so fair ….”. That said it all. I have many friends that thing exactly that way. In fact I used to think that way for a long time. A mirror was held to me when a Dalit girl found me on a matrimonial site and introduced her self. I hesitated and never got around to meeting her. The rest is history. My hesitation was not because I personally felt one way or the other. It was about how would she fit in and approval from friends and family. Until we intermarry and raise families of mixed heritage, this will not change. Until we all eat at the same table this will not change. Until we all grow up together this will not change.

  5. Thanks so much for this, Mansi! You precisely hit the nail on the head. The examples you listed are also perfect.
    As an oppressor caste, class person raised in a left, privileged family, I identified with many of your remarks that I found and continue to find amidst family and friends, including myself.
    Our allyship in most cases is so bogus and doesn’t actually work to dismantle the systems that benefit us.

  6. Well said. I don’t understand why these stupid sarvanas have to even sympathise with bheemtas and islamists who want to destroy them. They should better work for the progress of sarvana community without caring about bheemtas and islamists. Bheemtas are nothing but lazy stupid losers who claim that a brahmin ravan was their ancestor 😆😆😆. These foolish sarvana liberals just do this virtue signalling to show that they are morally superior and feel good while what they are really doing is burning their own house that shelters and feeds them.

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