In conversation with Dr. Ishwar Naik #DalitLivesMatter

In continuing with our series "Dalit Lives Matter", wherein prevalence of caste based issues on online spaces is discussed with various eminent personalities, Ms Pratishtha Arora engaged in an interesting Twitter Live session with Dr Iswar Chandra Naik, on 18th September 2020. Dr Naik is an associate professor at Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences (KISS), Bhubaneswar, and has his research interests in tribal movements, Naxalite movements, Dalit movements, and political sociology.

You can watch the complete live episode here:

The live session began with Dr Naik narrating incidents from his childhood, wherein he was stopped by an upper caste lady from entering into her kitchen. He discussed how the caste system is very prevalent in the villages, to the extent that Dalits were not permitted to drink water from glasses used by upper caste people. He then proceeded to speak of his journey in higher education, wherein he developed a greater understanding of caste issues, and developed a political bent of mind, towards Dalit issues.

Dr Naik then shared anecdotes of how he decided on his Ph.D topic in Jawaharlal Nehru University, and how he worked on the issues of "Jal, Zameen aur Jungle", related to Adivasi and Dalit rights, and how he is working towards mobilizing Dalits in Orissa, to understand and work towards their rights.

He spoke very highly regarding Mr Achyut Samanta, Member of Parliament, and founder of KISS, which provides free education, residence and meals to Dalits and Adivasi students. He spoke of how despite not belonging to Dalit or Adivasi community, Mr Samanta, empowers many people from these backward communities, and provides them with equal opportunities.

He raises some very pertinent issues regarding providing adequate avenues for Dalits and backward communities to express themselves, and shares how he once got the opportunity to attend a month long leadership training program in the United States of America, sponsored by the US consulate in Hyderabad.

When the session turned towards the issue of caste based discrimination in the online spaces, Dr Naik speaks about use of hate speech, and abuses which target certain communities. He also discusses the prevalence of matrimonial websites, which perpetuate caste based discrimination. He says the focus needs to be on educating youth and make them conscious about these issues which plague society. The youth need to become "change agents", in which social media can be a great catalyst.

Dr Naik reiterates that all communities must work together to end this social evil of caste system, and social progress will not take place if different social groups are in conflict with each other.

With this positive thought, we concluded the Live session with Dr Naik.
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