Dalit activist and a professor at Satavahana University, Karimnagar in Telangana Sujatha Surepally has been facing the wrath of right-wing trolls who are accusing her of being ‘anti-national’ and also insinuating that she is spreading naxalism in the varsity.
Karimnagar-based Sujatha Surepally has been facing death threats and online harassment since she wrote a Facebook post alleging an RSS attack on Dalit-Bahujan students at Satavahana University.
The activist says that the BJP is carrying out their ‘tried and tested’ model of harassing activists and academicians by labelling them ‘anti-nationals’.
Sujatha is accused of burning photos of ‘Bharat Mata’ on the university campus on December 25 – the day Dalit-Bahujans observe as Manusmriti Dahan Diwas and burn copies of Manusmriti – a Hindu scripture written by Manu in which he created the caste hierarchy.
However, Sujatha said that this was an outright lie spread by the BJP and its affiliated groups. “On the said day I was in Hyderabad,” Sujatha told TNM.
After being maliciously trolled and attacked by right-wing groups on social media, the professor has filed a complaint with the Karimnagar Police Commissioner against BJP spokesperson Bandi Sanjay, and the women’s and minority wings of the RSS for defaming and harassing her.
Sujatha added to TNM, “I gave the complaint with a heavy heart because I was filing complaint against my own people. The BJP has cleverly devised a plan to fight me. They are pitting Dalits against Dalits. I am forced to fight against my own brothers and sisters.”
She said that the BJP has been trying to replicate the Jawaharlal Nehru University episode with false propaganda to lynch her.
“The BJP has targeted me particularly after a series of campaigns by Dalit students and leaders against the BJP leader Bharat Reddy in Abhangapatnam who attacked two Dalits. They are seeking revenge,” she alleged.
Bandi Sanjay, Karimnagar BJP president and spokesperson who has been leading the campaign against Sujatha and making serious allegations that she was ‘anti-national’, told TNM, “The professor is provoking the students. Her teachings are against national interest.”
When asked what sort of anti-national propaganda Sujatha was spreading in the university, he said, “She is provoking the students against the BJP and RSS.”
Sanjay said, “Talking against the BJP and RSS equates to talking against the nation. They (BJP and RSS) are working for the welfare of the country. How can she talk against them?”
Reiterating his allegation that the Dalit-Bahujan students of the university burnt the pictures of ‘Bharat Mata’, he said, “The police should see the CCTV footage of the event and verify it.”
Karimnagar Commissioner VB Kamalasan Reddy was unavailable to comment on the issue
Surepally is not just a Dalit activist. She is a rallying force in the environmental movement in Karimnagar, which is opposed to extractive industries, particularly granite mining, which is a Rs 3,000 crore per annum industry.
She has also been at the forefront of the movement against student suicides on campuses, which has taken a particularly brutal toll in Telangana. The academic also had a key role to play in the arrest of a local strongman who was threatening two Dalit men.
V. Sandhya, Hyderabad-based national convenor of the Progressive Organization for Women, thinks that the campaign of intimidation against Surepally was orchestrated and coordinated. “Earlier, the state used to target individuals directly and it was easy to see who was doing it,” Sandhya said in a phone conversation. “However, now the state is using anonymous trolls to fix people. They put vile comments on social media and then hope it will be actualised as physical threats. Who is to be held accountable?”
No formal groups have rallied against Surepally except for the Karimnagar unit of the BJP, including its Dalit, women’s and minority cells. The most vicious parts of the campaign against her have been online.
Demonstrations of solidarity in favour of Surepally have been organised in Hyderabad by Dalit groups, women’s organisations and Left parties.
Surepally herself thinks that an attempt is being made to silence her voice because she is a Dalit woman who is not afraid to speak out, besides being a writer and an academic.
She said that though the viciousness of the online campaign has rattled her, she is not afraid to go back to Karimnagar.