Jadavpur University professor trolled over tribal status


She had made a remark on Facebook that holding exams are not important during the pandemic

Support is pouring out for Maroona Murmu, an associate professor of History at Jadavpur University, who was trolled for belonging to the tribal community after she made a remark on Facebook that holding exams were not important at the time of the pandemic.

“My mind is totally blank,” Dr. Murmu told The Hindu on Saturday, as she continued to be flooded with messages on social media, with an increasing number of people now supporting her against the large number of trolls who sought to put her down for being a tribal community person.

It all began on Thursday with Dr. Murmu’s comment on a friend’s Facebook post regarding the Supreme Court upholding the UGC’s decision that conventional exams be held for final year/terminal semester students. “All I had said was that life is long and that it did not matter if exams were not held for one year in view of COVID-19,” she said.

Nasty comment

Her remark attracted a nasty comment in Bengali from Paromita Ghosh, a student of Bethune College, who sought to remind Dr. Murmu that she better not comment on the matter considering that she had benefitted from ‘quota’ (reservation). Not only that, the student also followed up her comment with another post on her own Facebook wall, bragging that how she, “in polite language”, had put a certain “Santhali Murmu” in place.

This set off a chain of reactions, with people defending as well as ridiculing Dr. Murmu on social media. Among the first to come out in her support was the head of the Bengali Department of Bethune College, but she too was trolled; and considering that the department head had lost her husband to COVID-19 barely a month ago, she found it difficult to cope with the deluge of nasty comments and deleted her post.

Subsequently, Subhas Saren Sipahi, a friend of Dr. Murmu, put out a post in which he tagged her and quoted “Dalit Camera” as saying: “Dr. Murmu has repeatedly spoken up publicly about casteist and anti-Adivasi violence in bhodrolok society. For this she is often attacked publicly by bhodroloks… We are looking for organisations and individuals who will publicly and legally move with the case as Dr. Murmu is completely exhausted after fighting on so many fronts.”

Students’ support

By Saturday afternoon, this post had attracted over 1,500 comments, most of them attacking the professor and criticising the reservation policy. The Bethune College Student’s Committee, however, came out strongly in her support: “It is extremely disheartening and condemnable that a student of our college is still unaware of caste dynamics in India and the need of reservation for the underprivileged. The incident in question is extremely shameful and has brought the institution into disrepute. [We] unequivocally condemn Ms. Paromita Ghosh and resolve to stand by Dr. Maroona Murmu.”

“In West Bengal, the intensity of symbolic violence of casteism has overshadowed physical violence. Because of their grudging inclusion in professional and academic spaces, Adivasis and Dalits face silent social exclusion. Since the present atmosphere breeds politics of hate, an overt articulation of caste-based discrimination has become rampant,” Dr. Murmu told The Hindu.

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