Professor of the History Department of Jadavpur University, Maroona Murmu, made a comment on social media supporting voicing concerns about final semester exams being held during the COVID-19 pandemic. Students across the country had been protesting against exams being held during the pandemic, fearing that their safety and future would be put at risk. In response to her comment, however, a storm of casteist and racist abuse was unleashed against Professor Murmu on Facebook. An undergraduate student described Professor Murmu ‘incompetent/devoid of merit’ (‘jogyotaheen’) and ‘worthless’ (‘opodartho’) to describe Murmu, adding “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.” The same student commented later that she had “just reminded one ‘Murmu’ a Santhal about her Adivasi lineage. That too in a polite manner.” Nor were these the only comments: rather, Professor Murmu faced an endless flood of abuse and taunts.
If a PhD in history, an alumnus of prestigious academic institutions, and a Professor with published research to her name, can be subjected to such brazenly public casteist racial abuse, one can only imagine what adivasis and dalits with lesser visibility face on a daily basis.
AISA and AIPWA protested against these attacks on Professor Maroona Murmu, and academics from across the country issued statements in solidarity with her. The episode underlined how much work remains to be done to get society to acknowledge caste privilege, to fight the casteist anti reservation myths, and to dismantle and annihilate caste itself.