The Print, the digital media venture of Shekhar Gupta, has published an opinion piece by one Abhishek Minus Verma where the author has declared that ‘Savarnas’ have established a modern casteist hegemony on Instagram Reels. The article makes it abundantly clear that Instagram Reels are the next great enemy that must be overcome.
The author begins with the declaration, “One of the main reasons for my resentment with the new Reels culture is the crude display of privilege and the mono-cultural world of the so-called upper castes or Savarnas.” Shortly after, the author says, “Sadly, this domain (influencer market), like any other economic domain, is also the stronghold of Savarnas.”
The whole article is littered with one gem after the other. At one point, Verma says, “Instagram Reels are designed in such a way that you feel like you’re entering an expensive restaurant where you can be judged and mocked for your clothes, accent, and your pronunciation. There is a very subtle and sophisticated form of casteism that plays out in this digital corner.”
Immediately after, he declares, “Instagram Reels seems to have an algorithm that prefers particular Savarna aesthetics.” He continues, “All one sees are Savarnas expressing the joy and melancholy of living a life full of privileges. Instagram actively promotes the most ‘beautiful’ looking Reels on these trends. Anyone who opens the Reels tab on their app can always see that it’s the Savarna influencers who are trending.”
There is this particular instance which comes across as extremely offensive towards non-Savarnas. Verma says, “It’s very difficult for non-Savarna users, who lack the same cultural and social capital of looks, clothes, and clean, picture-perfect backgrounds to succeed in this culture of making ‘aesthetic’ Reels.”
Verma also accuses Savarnas of cultural appropriation, which appears to be borrowed from progressives in the western context to be weaponized against Indians. In a particularly disturbing instance, the author says, “Today, the grandchildren of those who once directly discriminated against lower-castes are now singing and dancing on Insta Reels. They are now doing the same activities that made lower-castes ‘impure’, ‘brash’ and ‘loud’, but in perfect lighting and aesthetic settings.”
After careful evaluation, Verma concluded, “In the Insta Reels ecosystem, creators who dance or create videos outside of these aesthetics and songs are labeled ‘cringe’. As is often said online, ‘modern problems require modern solutions’ thus modern Savarnas, too, have come up with modern casteism. Personally, I would call it ‘castiesm with a good vibe’.”
The article was edited by Fiza Ranalvi Jha and is part of The Print’s Dalit History Month 2021 series, along the lines of Black History Month that is observed in the USA. The article, at one point, describes TikTok users as ‘digital refugees’ since the app has been banned in India.
The Print is noted for publishing such stellar columns. Earlier, one of their journalists had claimed Narendra Modi was a sex symbol for women in villages. More recently, Jyoti Malhotra of The Print was mocked for not knowing that pharmaceuticals are chemicals.