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Casteist 'slur' on social media: UK scholars seek support for top West Bengal historian

By Our Representative

Two UK-based academics have sought online solidarity support for Dr Maroona Murmu, Associate Professor of History at Jadavpur University, who, they say, is being “incessantly trolled”, and is facing casteist abuse, for a comment she posted on a social media platform on the ongoing debate about holding examinations during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Already signed by several academics, including senior academics from University of Delhi, Ashoka University, University of Dayton, London School of Economics, Visva-Bharati (Santiniketan), Columbia University and Azim Premji University, in a petition they said, on September 2, Dr Murmu commented on a Facebook post by her friend Neelkonto Naskar regarding the issue of holding examinations, saying students’ lives were being put at risk by the government’s decision.
The UK scholars -- Laila Kadiwal, senior teaching fellow, UCL Institute of Education, UK, and Lotika Singha, honorary research fellow, University of Wolverhampton, UK – quote a young woman, who replied to her comment stating, “Maroona Murmu, what surprised me was the fact that Jadavpur University has professors with such mentality. I am astonished. Let me brief you a bit on the difference between ‘quota’ and ‘unquota’ (non-quota).”
The reply continued, “To know that life is more important than an academic year, one doesn’t require to be a professor [sic]. It’s not about lagging one year but about how some unqualified and incompetent people take undue advantage of the reservation system and their caste is now helping them be successful, while the deserving lag behind for ever.”
It added, “Our parents are stepping out, taking a risk every day to get us food, while some are sitting at home and getting paid for doing nothing.”
After a few hours, the same person put up a post on her Facebook profile saying, “Today morning, just reminded one ‘Murmu’, a Santhal about her Adivasi lineage. That too in a polite manner. But some people like her, just made me realise that so-called professors are getting fat simply drawing paychecks.”
Since then, says the scholars, Dr Murmu “has been trolled incessantly, with numerous hate messages and casteist comments being directed towards her. The troll machine has been at work against Dr Murmu unceasingly”, even as pointing out, she is an “accomplished and highly respected historian and educator, who has published widely on women’s history and literary production in Bengal.”
“In addition to her many scholarly contributions, she has also been an important and active voice against discrimination based on caste and adivasi identities in the realm of education in West Bengal and across India”, they add.
Further pointing out that Dr Murmu has been “a tireless advocate of increased representation of Dalit-Bahujan-Adivasi voices in education and in public life, and has written extensively on systematic and structural discrimination in post-independence India”, the UK scholars say, “Her writings and public activism have played a significant role in bringing the ‘caste question’ to the forefront of discussions in West Bengal.”
Deploring the “the vicious and hateful social media campaign against one of the most powerful voices of Dalit and Adivasi empowerment in contemporary India”, they insist, “Strict action must be taken against the perpetrators of this kind of violence that seeks to silence marginalized voices, denigrate the contributions of a leading Adivasi scholar-activist, and maintain established forms of Brahmanical hierarchy in our society.”

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