The following is a letter from alumni of the Centre for Historical Studies in solidarity with Dr. Maroona Murmu, a powerful anti-caste voice and scholar, who was recently harassed by casteist trolls on social media.
We the undersigned, the alumni of Centre for Historical Studies, JNU along with several concerned citizens, are writing in unequivocal support of Dr. Maroona Murmu, Associate Professor of History at Jadavpur University, who is being incessantly trolled, and having to face casteist abuse, for a comment she posted on a social media platform on the ongoing debate about holding examinations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Background: On September 2, Professor 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.
A young woman replied to her comment saying, “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). 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. 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, 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 Prof. Murmu unceasingly. This has been reported here, here, and here.
Dr. Murmu 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.
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.
Her writings and public activism have played a significant role in bringing the ‘caste question’ to the forefront of discussions in West Bengal, in a manner that has been transformative and path-breaking. The love and respect that she receives from her colleagues and students is evidence of the important role she plays within the university community — as a teacher and a mentor as well as a highly-regarded scholar.
The vicious and hateful social media campaign against one of the most powerful voices of Dalit and Adivasi empowerment in contemporary India is utterly deplorable. 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. It is a matter of great consternation for us that our casteist society does not sensitize its young members to the long history of violence against Adivasis, Dalits, and Bahujans and to the need for affirmative action for the purpose of representation and empowerment, which have been previously stolen from them. It is a matter of grave concern that Dr. Murmu is being subjected to such vicious attacks. These attacks throw light on structural inequalities in the academe, despite the usual legal and institutional safeguards.
We stand in solidarity with Professor Maroona Murmu and with her fight against casteist oppression.
Ajeet Kumar, Assistant Professor, History, ARSD College, University of Delhi
Anirban Bandhopadhyay, History, Karnavati University, Gandhinagar
Anubhuti Maurya, Assistant Professor, History, Shiv Nadar University
Aparna Vaidik, Associate Professor, History, Ashoka University, Kundli
Ashish Kumar, Assistant Professor, History, Punjab University, Chandigarh
Ganganpreet Singh, Assistant Professor, History, Banaras Hindu University
Haimanti Roy, Associate Professor, History, University of Dayton
Hemanth Kadambi, Assistant Professor, History, Shiv Nadar University
Kalyan Kumar, General Secretary, Shramik Elgar, Chandrapur, Maharashtra
Khalid Akhter, Delhi-based journalist
Mahesh Gopalan, Assistant Professor, History, St. Stephen’s College, University of Delhi
Poornima Paidipaty, LSE Fellow in Inequalities, London School of Economics, LSE, UK
Prabhat Kumar, CSDS, Delhi
Radhika Khajuria, Gender and Health Activist
Rachna Singh, Assistant Professor, History, Hindu College, University of Delhi
Rahul Jayaram, Associate Professor, Jindal School of Liberal Arts and Humanities, Sonipat
Ranjana Das, Assistant Professor, History, Ramjas College, University of Delhi
Sabyasachi Dasgupta, Assistant Professor, History, Visva-Bharati, Shantiniketan
Sanjeev Kumar, CHS, JNU, Alumni
Siva Arumugam, PhD, Columbia University
Varuni Bhatia, Associate Professor, History, Azim Premji University
Vikas Pathak, faculty, Asian College of Journalism, Chennai
Vishal Chauhan, Assistant Professor, History, PGDAV College, Delhi University
Yengkhom Jilangamba, Assistant Professor, TISS, Guwahati campus