Updated: April 4, 2021 9:37:30 am
Written by Anjul Bamhrolia
You might not know me. But I am one of the few Indians that former US president Barack Obama and singer Britney Spears follow on social media. I am a vlogger from Gwalior who documents Bahujan history and culture. My YouTube channel has over 20 million views. However, my story did not begin with things falling into place. It was happenstance.
Back in 2014, I had received fateful news that I had lost my mother. I rushed to Gwalior from Bhopal, and never left the place since. Gwalior is notorious when it comes to caste discrimination. Despite coming from a second generation educated family, we knew the burden of caste. And that is why my parents preferred that I live in a faraway city.
The notoriety of caste did not wait any further to surprise me.
A relative who works for the government was denied an apartment after he had revealed his last name. My father unsuccessfully tried to buy an apartment in a newly constructed building. The builder refused to sell it to a Dalit.
Pages will fill up if I start recounting such incidents. I come from an Ambedkarite family. My grandfather Shanti Sathya was a Buddhist monk, who built a monastery in the Chambal region in 1977. I grew up watching him, yet it was not until I settled in Gwalior that the ugliness of caste started revealing itself.
In 2009, I started curiously following Obama’s presidential campaign. I noticed his suave use of social media. A thought took seed in my head that I should use my privilege to articulate the community’s issues on social media. It started with creating cartoon animations on Babasaheb Ambedkar. People started gravitating towards the content. I met a young man from Bhim Nagar, Sunny Jatav, which became a turning point in my life.
The April 2, 2018, protest against the dilution of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities Act) saw 13 people dead. Of them two belonged to a nearby area. The media ran stories contrary to what I was seeing on the ground. It declared Dalit gatherings anti-national. I couldn’t take it anymore.
To counter the false narratives, I sought to bring out issues discussed in Dalit households to public knowledge. Dalit congregations provided free education to slum dwelling children. It was a world that was neglected. I decided to start one of India’s first popular vlogging channels covering Bahujan stories. This was the right way to uproot the seeds of hate from the heart of society and reach even those living under a rock. Jatav and I started travelling to places neglected by the media.
Savarna and Dalit vloggers
Dalits lack resources. The Internet has been expensive and vloggers from Savarna caste have an edge over Dalits in this field. Vlogging is more or less part of Western culture. Vloggers showcase their lifestyle in their vlogs. Their Indian counterparts mimic them frame to frame.
People are exhausted now of watching scripted shows and serials. They are gravitating to vloggers since the content is based on real life. Savarna vloggers like their media brethren are excelling in copying content from western vloggers. What we Dalit vloggers are attempting to do is put India at its rawest on the grandstand.
Future of Dalit vlogging
For ages, false narratives have been created about Dalits. Dalit women are still lynched after they are accused of being witches. Manuwadis highlight such things, portraying a false image of India. The media is consistent in its endeavours to break down the profile of Ambedkar and Dalits.
People from different age groups around the globe are subscribers to my vlogs. Now, our battle is against the biased Savarna media. Indeed, I remain suspicious as to what would happen to the small world of Dalit vlogging. One cannot rule out the government passing laws to check social media. We must do our part to join the movement for a greater cause.
Anjul Bamhrolia is a vlogger at Tathagat.Live YouTube channel. Suraj Yengde, author of Caste Matters, curates the fortnightly ‘Dalitality’ column
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