There’s a new trend underway, of which Greta Thunberg was a pioneer. The climate activist, as a child, ushered in an era of children activism. It usually involves parents pursuing their personal agenda using their children as a prop. Unfortunately, the trend has come to India as well. After Licypriya Kangujam, we have an eight year old child in our hands in the arena of caste activism. He is Samantha Meshram.
Samantha Meshram appears to be an ordinary boy and there is very little that we know of him. What we do know, however, is that he is in third grade and reads the works of Babasaheb Ambedkar and wishes to destroy caste, at least that is what his social media account claims.
A post on his Twitter account recently said, “After school hours, I am also reading Babasaheb Dr. Ambedkar’s books everyday. We will destroy caste in coming few years.” The account was created in January 2020, when he was 7 years old.
The pinned tweet on his account says that he has launched the Annihilation of Caste Foundation and asks others to join his project.
All of it is quite self-explanatory. In the world we live in, 8 year old kids are in no position to head a foundation. They are eight year old, they don’t know anything about most things around them. The greatest concern in the life of an eight year old from an ordinary family is their toys and their cartoons.
It is quite difficult to make them interested in any other thing. We have all been through that age. And it is with good reason that civilized societies operate under the assumption that minor children have no agency of their own. The responsibility for their well-being lies solely in the hands of their guardian. And with good reason.
But here we have Samantha Meshram wondering about matters that do not ordinarily concern any eight year old. Yes, there are child prodigies who excel in games or studies or any particular area at a very young age but even they are not assumed to be particularly wise in matters of politics. Wisdom, after all, is very often a function of experience and experience most times only comes with age.
Meshram, at least his account on Twitter, is not bothered about Doraemon or other cartoons, instead he focuses on existential questions such as why Brahmins cannot be called Shudras. His parents, it seems, have handed him the baton of Jai Bhim instead of Chhota Bheem.
There is, of course, the irony of a child sitting in front of a Macbook in what appears to be a well furnished room. Nevertheless, the retweets on his account make it abundantly clear that he is being used a prop by adults with a motivated agenda.
One tweet that the account has retweeted claims that an Ambedkarite child is being ‘trolled’ by ‘Manu ki Aulad’. The tweet also says that all Ambedkarites ought to encourage the child.
Another tweet that was retweeted is a report by a self-proclaimed “Ambedkarite media venture” and foments hatred against ‘Manuvadis’. At this point, the objective is quite clear here. People with their personal caste agenda are seeking to create propaganda using the child.
The psychological toll that exposure to negative social media attention could have on the child is surely a bit too much for an eight year old to bear. And the only reason he is being exposed to such is because of his guardians.
It is necessary to add the caveat that it is not clear whether the child is even aware that he has a social media account. It is very possible that his guardians run the account using his photographs.
It is similar to Licypriya Kangujam. Her Twitter account is run by a bunch of social media managers. Meshram’s case does not appear to be too different. It is somewhat unbelievable that a child could tweet why Brahmins are not called Shudras.
This in indeed a dangerous development. Children should not be turned into tools for the agenda of their parents, whatever it may be. We could all agree that children ought to be shielded from the vagaries of the world at least until they are mature enough to evaluate things on their own.
It is far too much of a burden for them to carry. But such are the times we are living in. In Licypriya’s case, it is even more tragic as her father is a certified conman who took a lot of people for a ride. As a consequence of her father’s actions, the child has herself become an object of ridicule and derision on social media. She is found protesting over pretty much anything and everything under the Sun.
One can only hope that Meshram does not have to tread the same path. None of this is his fault, he is a child after all. But when guardians abandon the sacred responsibility of their wards, tragedy often unfolds.