A webinar on ‘Resisting caste discrimination in the South Asian Australian Diaspora’ by academic and filmmaker Dr Vikrant Kishore was infiltrated by “trouble-makers”, forcing the organisers to end the program prematurely.
Dr Vikrant Kishore made a presentation on Caste Discrimination at the Melbourne South Asian Studies Group University of Melbourne and South Asian Studies Association of Australia March seminar.
Towards the end of the webinar, some unknown intruders joined the zoom session and took over the shared screen to post indecent pictures.
The organisers decided to terminate the sessions immediately. Professor Sujeet Dhanji, who was managing the session, said that the Melbourne South Asian Studies Group is a group of laypersons, academics and South Asian researchers who get together monthly to share their research, books or journal publications.
“We had a sizeable group for tonight’s zoom event followed by a Q&A session. Towards the end, just as a participant from King’s College London was about to ask a question, some unknown persons joined the zoom session and took over the shared screen to post garbage. I decided to terminate the session to prevent this malicious attack. As the session was on the UoM zoom platform, the attack has been duly noted and will be escalated accordingly. I never experienced this over the past seven years! Sad really,” she told NRI Affairs.
Dr Kishore says he was left stunned.
“When I saw the shared screen, I was aghast and could barely grasp that something like that was happening. I did not realise how terrible this was, only now I am trying to get my head around; I feel a bit numb,” he said.
Many other attendees criticised the infiltration as uncalled for and embarrassing behaviour.
The Head of the Hindi department at Melbourne’s La Trobe University, Professor Ian Woolford said the behaviours was embarrassing and reflected terribly on whatever position they were trying to promote.
“Toward the end of the talk, our online space was infiltrated by trouble-makers who seemed intent on preventing Dr Kishore from speaking on this topic. I can only guess their motivation, but I will stress that this kind of behaviour is embarrassing and reflects terribly on whatever position they are trying to promote,” said Professor Woolford.
He added that Dr Vikrant Kishore’s presentation on caste discrimination in Australia—a topic that he and his team have been researching for some time, is much-needed.
He said, “His work involves ethnographic analysis supported by various other social scientific methods. His clear examples of Dalits facing discrimination in Australia seemed even more disturbing when presented alongside his examples of people insisting that caste and caste discrimination does not exist, or at least that it does not exist in this country. I was especially concerned to hear his data regarding Indian students in Australia.”
“In India, there are active efforts to make education available to Dalits and other oppressed communities. But individuals from these communities make up a disproportionately small percentage of Indian students in Australia. As an academic in this country, I am deeply concerned by the thought that Australian institutions might unwittingly be perpetuating caste-based inequality.”
Another attendee, Madhu Meeta said that when somebody gatecrashed the Zoom meeting this evening, they were showing images from porn movies stills, and they chose black people’s porn.
“It just flashes in my eyes that even now they are trying to tell us in a way that this is you and your status, low caste people. It shows their mentality and bullies nature and mindset of being superior. They don’t want to call us equal to them; for them, we are still lower caste, and our place is still in the society below them. Still, we are struggling to find a respected place in our society. It shows that we have zero value in their eyes. I must mention that I felt very sad,” Madhu Meeta said.