Facebook group takes on casteism in India with Bollywood memes
Just Savarna Things is a page on Facebook that talks about caste. The page has garnered over 4,000 followers in a month and a half. This surprising juxtaposition of the two facts has been made possible by a team of 10 young people who met on social media and decided that the hypocrisies of the upper caste liberals have enough material for endless jokes. For this, they used stills from cinema as a communication medium and started making memes.
This meme was a fan (S. Anis) contribution to the team of Just Savarna Things (JST). Neither Guru Dutt nor Pyaasa (the still is from the movie) had anything to do with the recent violence in Malda. The page uses this grab from the classic to comment on how the Malda incident would be brought up to brush aside any other issue. The members of JST say that after the incident, whenever they would bring up caste issues, they were criticised for not talking about Malda. Pic courtesy/ Just Savarna Things
Just Savarna Things uses a Shashi Tharoor-inspired meme to expose the doublespeak of the privileged elite. The back story was that a while ago, social media was abuzz with news that Tharoor had appeared in Andaz Apna Apna where he denied it, leading to much amusement. Though this points at the Tharoor’s argument from raparations at Oxford, the use of the picture is to allude to supporters of such reparation who are against reservation. PICS courtesy/Just Savarna Things
"One of us started a thread with the hashtag #JustSavarnaThings. The thread went viral and we were excited beyond measure because it was probably the first time we were specifically targeting the hypocrisy of the liberal savarnas (Sanskrit: upper caste). Now it’s easy to mock the extreme-right wingers, but what often goes unexposed is the hypocrisy of the self-proclaimed liberals," says Gaurav Somwanshi, representing the team.
“Western feminism had its Peggy McIntosh (a white woman) to point out how White Privilege works to exclude women of colour from feminist discourses; sadly it’s the opposite in an Indian scenario. The savarna feminists also indulge in savarna-washing of mainstream feminist discourses even if it means exploiting the knowledge and experience of Dalit-bahujan-adivasi women themselves.” — Gaurav Somwanshi
This one came after the ‘cultural appropriation’ row over Coldplay’s latest single shot in India and which featured Beyonce in Indian attire
An IIM Lucknow graduate, Somwanshi, is a Dalit but the team is composed of people from diverse backgrounds. "We are a team of six men and four women. Six of us are Dalits, one is OBC, one is Muslim and two are upper-castes with one being a Brahmin, and other a Lingayat (prominent upper-caste from Karnataka)," Somwanshi reveals. He feels that the omnipresence of Bollywood in Indian imagination gives the added punch to their lines, and also, indirectly, is a commentary on the caste-denying narratives of Bollywood. "Is there any enquiry on the caste-dominance in Bollywood, just like there is a lot of awareness about issues such as Oscars lacking people of colour," he asks. The group has a Twitter handle and plan to move to Instagram and Tumblr soon.
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Just as one starts ‘tch-tch-ing’ about the Oscars (Academy Awards) not having adequate representation from people of colour, this meme asks us to look at the caste scenario in Indian film awards
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Where JST takes the knife to drawing room liberals who casually practice everyday casteism
Despite being a page that comments on caste, JST has been silent on the suicide of Rohith Vemula, which has led to student unrest in different parts of the country. This, Somwanshi says, is because they think the gravity of the situation is too much for the satirical page. "We have been actively engaged with the movements and have been writing in personal capacity on different platforms," he says. Somwanshi is also the co-author of a book, Hatred In The Belly, on caste hypocrisy in India, which has contributions from 37 other anti-caste writers.