Dalit student commits suicide in Kerala, protestors beaten up by the police- Do Dalit Lives Matter?

An empty classroom in Kerala, Image by Sivaram V/Reuters

News: A Dalit student of the 9th standard committed suicide by way of setting herself on fire upon suffering from depression over being unable to attend online classes in in Valanchery, a town in Kerala’s Malappuram district. The incident has been met with significant protests in the region which have been met with brutal violence on part of the police.

There has been widespread backlash against classes conducted through online mediums because of their inaccessibility among students who do not have access to devices and the Internet due to a variety of reasons. The underprivileged lower castes and classes are the worst hit by this. The young girl’s father, a 45-year old daily wage labourer, says that she had been asking for him to fix the television for days, because it was through the television that classes were being broadcasted. However, since the father did not have any work, they did not have money to repair the television.

The Hindu reported that law enforcers caned Muslim Student Federation (MSF) activists who marched to the office of the Deputy Director of Education (DDE) in Malappuram on Tuesday demanding that the government suspend online classes till the State ensured that every child had equal access to e-learning. The news of this police brutality comes at a time when all around the world, people are speaking up against the death of George Floyd, a victim of police brutality. Indian public figures have been, on social media platforms, using the Black Lives Matter hashtag, but are decidedly silent when it comes to casteism and institutionalised discrimination and violence in India.

People who have never spoken up about the violence of the police against Muslims, Dalits and people from the North East are now coming together to show their support for a movement that is happening thousands of kilometres away. Indians are themselves perpetrators of racism, there have been several instances of racism within our country. A perfunctory statement that is made with no genuine thought or introspection, no conversation about the atrocities happening in our country by our own people just reduces the value of said statement to a trend, a cool hashtag to join in on.

We need to extend our support to the American movement against racism, but we need to recognise that systematic societal violence is not something that is foreign to us.

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