Dalit Teenager Shot Dead in UP, While We Tweet On #BlackLivesMatter

Social Commentary

Dalit Teenager Shot Dead in UP, While We Tweet On #BlackLivesMatter

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

The Black Lives Matter movement has seen enthusiastic support back home, with a number of Indians taking to social media to show support for the protests in the USA. However, a recent headline about a Dalit teenager who was shot dead for allegedly praying at a temple, doesn’t seem to have earned the same show of solidarity.

The teenager, named Vikas, was shot dead in an Uttar Pradesh village last night, five days after allegedly “defying objections” to him praying at a local temple. A member of an influential upper-caste family, Horam, has been accused of his murder.

The police said the incident was the outcome of a quarrel, but have booked the accused under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, among others, indicating that the teenager’s caste had something to do with the incident.

The fact that this shocking headline was met largely with silence online, while conversation over the BLM movement continues to gain steam, meanwhile, has irked a number of social media users back home, who asked where all the outrage had gone.

One cynically noted that there wouldn’t be any, because “Dalit lives don’t matter”.

Another urged those tweeting about BLM to stop with their “performative wokeness” since it was clear the lives of Dalit men and women didn’t seem to matter.

A few even connected it to the death of an elephant last week — news of which had been shared widely and met with strong condemnation — and asked why social media wasn’t extending the same courtesy to this latest incident of caste violence.

Neeraj Ghaywan, the National Award-winning director of Masaan, said the silence was proof that our country was a century away from “taking a knee”. He was referring to American football player Colin Kaepernick’s now iconic act of kneeling during the country’s national anthem in protest against police brutality.

The father of the teen who was killed in UP, meanwhile, told reporters that Vikas was beaten up by locals a week earlier, after a visit to the temple. But the police had refused to file an FIR then. A few days later, on Saturday night, Vikas was pulled out of his home by four men while he was sleeping and shot with a revolver.

As the outrage over the murder now begins to pick up steam, maybe some of the celebrities fighting for the rights of minorities in America will extend the fight to minorities back home as well. Although given our history of ignoring caste violence, that might be a little too hopeful.