ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Translating Public Protests into the Digital Realm

Notes from an Ambedkarite cultural troupe about taking the protest site online.

“As soon as we start singing and drumming the duff (drum) on the streets, a crowd starts forming, and if we’re on stage, the audience becomes attentive and passers-by intrigued,” says Suvarna Salve, member of the Samata Kala Manch (SKM), an Ambedkarite cultural troupe. A key organisation that spearheaded the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) protests in the state, they held performances more than thrice a week since the beginning of 2020, making their energising, emotional, and impactful songs—like “Shaheen Bagh ki Avaaj, Inquilab!”—iconic staples of the larger movement. Three months into the start of the year, however, the movement came to a grinding halt with the Prime Minister’s announcement of a strict lockdown on 23 March.

SKM performers Shrushti (left) and Suvarna (right) dressed in sky blue and performing at an anti-CAA protest on 22 January 2020. Credit: SKM

They switched gears and prioritised relief work during the lockdown since most members have deep ties with Dalit–Bahujan communities that were severely affected. Their own sources of funding (like collecting contributions after a performance) stopped and part-time members employed with other organisations faced economic precariousness due to lay-offs, steep salary cuts and delayed payment. “After every performance, we would pass around our duff to collect contributions,” says Salve. “But now, our physical performances have stopped entirely, and so have our fundraising efforts.”

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Updated On : 6th Apr, 2021
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