40% of India’s casteist Facebook posts are anti-reservation, anti-Dalit  reveals a US research

Around 40% of India’s casteist posts on Facebook are mainly directed against Dalits and Adivasis, some even contain derogatory remarks made at Dr BR Ambedkar and Dalit leader Mayawati

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A recent American civil society research has found that 40% of India's casteist posts on Facebook (FB) have anti-reservation slant. Asserting that the reservation policy in India is similar to affirmative action in the United States, the research study, titled "Facebook India: Towards The Tipping Point of Violence Caste and Religious Hate Speech", says, this type of hate content on FB is mainly directed against Dalits and Adivasis.

Pointing out that the rhetoric of anti-reservationism is not the only of form of casteism found on FB, the study, carried out by Equality Labs, a South Asian American human rights and technology start-up, says, "Additional casteist posts included caste-based slurs, derogatory references to caste-based occupations such as manual scavenging, anti-Ambedkar posts (such as photoshopping Ambedkar’s face onto memes as an echo of real-world vandalism), and anti-inter-caste love unions posts."

While casteist posts are found to be 13% of all FB posts having hate content relating to India -- as against 37% Islamophobic, 16% false news, 13% sexist, 11% relating to violence, and 9% anti-religious minorities -- the study believes, "Casteist posts are an area of serious concern" because caste discrimination is part of the Indian "ecosystem of violence designed to shame, intimidate, and keep caste oppressed communities from asserting their rights and participating as equals in society."

Giving specific examples of casteist posts, the study cites an FB group called Anti-Chamaar Group, Pointing out, "Chamaar is a Dalit caste found throughout North India who work with leather". It says, the group -- which came into existence in 2016 and remains intact despite numerous attempts to report about it to FB -- is "explicitly" against this caste, continuing to post derogatory images and content.

Suggesting that the anti-caste content is particularly objectionable because FB has included “caste” when describing protected classes in hate speech, the study regrets, "FB fails in implementing protections for these classes on their platform in the Indian market", blaming it on FB's Indian staff, which, it says, "lacks the cultural competency needed to recognize, respect, and serve caste, religious, gender, and queer minorities".

Giving more examples of anti-caste posts, the study cites one where a photoshopped image of Dr BR Ambedkar, "a Dalit anti-caste liberation leader whose stature is similar to that of Dr Martin Luther King Jr in America. Its caption reads, “When you clean all the toilets an

The study states, "To understand why this post is so deeply offensive, one must understand the work conditions of Dalits. These castes have historically been forced into forms of slavery requiring them to do the filthiest jobs, like handling dead bodies and cleaning toilets. Even in modern-day India, this includes the practice of manual scavenging, where Dalit workers clean out the sewage from sewers with their bare hands and bodies."


Asserting that "thousands of Dalits die every year as a result of inhaling sewer gases or by simply drowning in sewage", and calling it a "dreadful exploitation", the study says, despite this, "A caste-oppressed people is made the brunt of jokes." It adds, "The social context is also important here. Statues of Dr Ambedkar are regularly vandalized in India to intimidate and shame caste oppressed communities."

In yet another example, the study cites two anti-reservationist posts, noting, they make "a derogatory reference to the caste-based occupation of cleaning sewage", implying that "Dalits are good for only jobs involving sewers and not fit to compete with 'savarnas' (upper caste people) for jobs with dignity." The posts have appeared on a page made by an FB group that calls for the need to make Manusmriti as India's Constitution.

The study finds yet another post taking a similar line, pointing out, it is particularly "distressing", because, even as rejecting Manusmriti, it talks of " fucking" the Constitution, underlining, the position it takes is to assert that "Hindu scripture is above the Constitution of India — and not just any scripture, but [Manusmriti] that enforces caste oppression and violence."

Then, the study gives the example of a post with "another meme of Dr Ambedkar", showing shows him "jumping of a bridge with the epithet 'bhangi', making a pun on 'bungee jumping'." It adds, "Terms like 'bhangi' are extremely derogatory in India... While bhangi is the name of a caste that does manual scavenging, or the cleaning of sewers, it is used as a slur in upper caste communities."

Then, says the study, a post provides "a deeply offensive manipulated image" in which "the face of Dalit leader Mayawati has been photoshopped onto the body of a Miss India beauty pageant winner. The caption below references Indian affirmative action policies saying that in 2030 there will be reservation (affirmative action) for beauty pageants for Dalits and Adivasis."

Comments the study, "Beyond the repetition and disregard of affirmative action, this image is meant to further mock and demean Mayawati with the underlying insinuation that she is unattractive. The idea is to trivialize Dalit people, and Dalit women in particular, who are often stereotyped as dark, ugly, like demons, witches, unattractive, and so on."

The study regrets, over and above all this, "there is widespread doxxing occurring on the FB platform, threatening activists, journalists, and others who speak on behalf of the vulnerable, adding, "93% of all hate speech posts reported to FB remain on FB. This includes content advocating violence, bullying and use of offensive slurs, reflecting a near total failure of the content moderation process."

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