This episode of The Brief originally aired on April 7, 2020. You can listen to the full episode on Apple Podcasts or watch the live video recording on YouTube.
In Episode 9 of The Brief, we talk about how caste discrimination translates to the virtual world with Amitabh Kumar, Founder of Social Media Matters. Amitabh and his team are a group of feminists dedicated to creating safe online spaces. Their initiatives fight back against toxic online behaviors like cyberbullying and fake news. They also support digital safety efforts in sectors like online dating, gaming, and social media.
Caste discrimination is rooted in India's 3,000+-year-old caste system — a well-established social hierarchy that divides Hindus into rigid groups ranked the concept of "ritual purity". The caste system is divided into 4 main castes (listed in descending order): Brahmins (priests and teachers), the Ksyatriyas (rulers and soldiers), the Vaisyas (merchants and traders), and the Shudras (laborers and artisans).
However, there is a large segment of the population that falls outside of the caste system — the Dalits, or "Untouchables". Despite accounting for over one-sixth of India's population, the Untouchables are social outliers that experience profound ostracization. They live in forced isolation from the rest of society, even as children. Furthermore, this group is responsible for the execution of "ritually polluting" tasks (example: handling dead bodies) that are deemed to be beneath all of those who belong to the caste system.
Despite its constitutional abolition in 1950, the practice of "untouchability" and discriminatory behavior based on the traditional caste system has carried over to India's digital world. In the present day, caste discrimination has become a form of cyberbullying. Spectrum Labs is working with Social Media Matters to develop initiatives and products that will fight back against caste discrimination online.