Documentary Screening of India Untouched at MIT Touches a Chord
India Untouched, a documentary directed by Stalin Kurup, was screened at the MIT Campus on July 25 evening as a way to highlight and open the discussion on caste and the continuing oppression faced by the dalit and other community that have faced marginalization over time in India.
The screening was organized by AID-MIT and AID-Boston chapters of AID (Association for India's Development). AID is a volunteer movement that is committed to promote equitable, sustainable and just development in India. AID supports various grassroots organizations who work on interconnected spheres such as education, livelihoods, natural resources including land, water and energy, agriculture, health, women's empowerment and social justice.
The event was well-attended with a crowd of around 60 people spanning different age groups and nationalities. Sivaraman Ramaswamy, the president of AID-MIT chapter welcomed the audience and briefly mentioned the functions of AID.
Though the documentary was around 2 hours long, audience regularly responded to the critical moments in the movie. India Untouched clearly exposed the continuation of caste practices in various religions and communities and even within some of India's most revered academic and professional institutions.
After the completion of screening, dinner was served and audience was requested to stay back for discussion on the documentary.
Discussion was led by Dr. Urmitapa Dutta, an Assistant Professor of Psychology and a faculty affiliate of the Peace and Conflict Studies Program at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. During this discussion, several important issues like the influence of religion on untouchability, prejudice in police and law bodies, lack of equal opportunities for lower caste people, shift from "classical" untouchability to a more subtle level of discrimination, matrimony-based caste-ism, parallels to ethnic discrimination and possible solutions like inter-caste marriage to eradicate discrimination were discussed.
The audience shared anecdotes from their own lives, where a lot of situations did not make sense to them as kids, but later they were able to understand the intricate manifestations of casteism even among the educated. Emerging currents of reverse casteism were brought up, followed by a heated discussion about reservation and affirmative action. As the AID members shared some ongoing projects that work towards eradicating manual scavenging by training the involved dalit women in other jobs, the audience pondered over how they could ensure consciously that they do not practice untouchability in any form.