Several people flooded social media platform X (formerly known as Twitter) with pictures of expensive gadgets, plane tickets from their travels, educational qualifications, and books, among other things accompanied by the hashtag ‘not your Dalit Tavleen. This barrage of posts were shared in response to a comment made by writer-journalist Tavleen Singh.
Singh, known for her controversial views, had recently shared a picture of a young child with a grimey face and worn out clothes with the caption: “This photo exhibition at the Habitat Centre in Delhi makes a better case for the Dalits than so-called Dalit scholars and sympathisers have made recently.” She was taking an apparent dig at the Dalits who were offended by her recent column in the Indian Express titled Time to End Reservations. In this article, she argued for ending caste-based reservations in education institutions and government jobs. Her article drew a lot of flak from anticaste activists, and particularly from Dalits. Some even demanded her arrest.
The picture in the controversial post also came with a description that the subject of the picture, “six-year-old Munni, struggles to breathe hazardous air mixed with pollutants like sulphur dioxide and methane.”
Despite the picture not describing Munni’s caste location, Tavleen’s assumption about the child’s caste and peddling the narrative that Dalits need to look a certain way if they deserved to be sympathised with, was met with condemnation.
As part of the campaign to counter Tavleen’s narrative, several Dalit activists, scholars, and social media users began to share pictures of their achievements, and ‘luxuries’ under the hashtag #Not_Your_Dalit_Tavleen, and eliminate the casteist thought that Dalits only look impoverished.
Journalist and founder of Mooknayak–a digital new platform dedicated to reportage on marginalised communities–Meena Kotwal, shared pictures of herself and her colleagues giving speeches in prominent universities abroad like Harvad, Columbia and University of Michigan.
One X user accused Tavleen of having a stereotypical view of Dalits to be “dirty, downtrodden and polluting” while being casteist. They said, “You view Dalits as dirty, downtrodden and polluting and you blatantly display your casteism like this, making a great case for why reservation needs to exist to avoid such biased minds from restricting my people from getting their due Tavleen Singh.”
Another user pointed out how Tavleen was asking for Dalits to be “poor” and “hapless” to be deserving of caste based reservations. They said, “She’s saying show some poor hapless Dalits to win some reservation argumentHow problematic is that? Reservation is NOT poverty alleviation program, it’s about Representation. She hates Kabali, she loves Kachra.”
Babita Gautam, another Dalit journalist and the co-founder of Dalit Desk, shared a picture of herself from her studio with a caption that mocked those who were jealous to see Dalits being successful and not downtrodden.
Prashant Kanojia, the national campaign incharge for the party Rashtriya Dal Lok, shared a picture of himself on a horse and said, “Hello Tavleen Singh try hard so your son can get OCI [Overseas Citizen of India] Card. We are not a Dalit of your imagination. You should thank Baba Sahab Ambedkar because you could vote, go to school and speak like this. #Not_Your_Dalit_Tavleen”
Apart from sharing their own achievements, several users also shared pictures of eminent Dalit filmmakers and their anti-case films. One person shared a picture of Tamil filmmaker Pa Ranjith at the Cannes film festival with the same hashtag. Pa Ranjith’s films have not shied away from caste politics in his films and have earned critical acclaim for the same.