BR Ambedkar portrayed as a young man burning the Hindu caste pyramid. Savitribai Phule sitting cross-legged in style and reading a book. Rohith Vemula dressed as an astronaut. EV Ramasamy’s shawl, draped over his shoulders, turning into an ocean where young people dive. Migrant workers constructing a map of India against a background dotted with coronaviruses. Kabir Das standing handcuffed in prison.
These are some of the digital illustrations created by Dalit artists for their social-media feeds. Almost all these illustrations are accompanied by detailed captions, reflecting on the revolutionary past of the anti-caste struggle or mapping the routineness of caste discrimination in India.
Over the years, particularly after the widespread protests in December 2019 against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the National Register of Citizens, digital artists in India began to share their work on social media, especially on Instagram, to register dissent against the incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party regime. For young Dalit artists, the digital medium and its popularity allowed them to create a visual language deeply rooted in the lived experiences of marginalised castes. The artwork, widely shared by the Bahujan community on social media, is striking, often employing metaphors and symbols borrowed from Dalit history.