Published: 13th January 2020
Meet Kaushal Bodwal, a queer DSE student who was trolled on social media for his looks at anti-CAA rally
Kaushal's photograph from an anti-CAA protest was tweeted by Hindutva idealogue Shefali Vaidya and DU Professor Balaram Pani
Kaushal Bodwal is one of those rare people who can sport a beard and bindi at the same time with grace. A queer activist, he carries drapes and dhoti with the same charm. But for a lot of Twitter users, this MPhil student's unconventional look was an invitation to troll and mock him.
It all began when Hindutva idealogue and author Shefali Vaidya tweeted a photograph of Kaushal's with a caption that said "How can I unsee it? Sharing it to spread the misery." The photograph was from an anti-CAA protest held in Delhi's Jantar Mantar two weeks back. The tweet soon went viral. The last we checked, it had over 2,000 retweets. A lot of users agreed with Vaidya's point of view and didn't spare a chance to troll Kaushal, whom they did not know. The others, on the other hand, found the tweet to be offensive. Owing to their mass reporting, the tweet was soon taken down by Twitter.
A student at the Delhi School of Economics, Kaushal tells us that he got to know about the tweet only after a few friends had sent them to him. But he had seen the same photograph mocked on Facebook previously. To his surprise, one of the people who shared it was the principal of a college where he previously studied. "Balaram Pani, the principal of Bhaskaracharya College of Applied Sciences had shared my image that said 'JNU ke Buddhipishaach' (JNU's intellectual ghost). The comments there were horrible," says Kaushal. "Principals of these colleges will call a person like me to speak on queer rights. Later, they mock the same queer people. How will people feel safe to come out in this scenario?" he wonders.
Even though Shefali Vaidya's tweet was taken down, she hasn't apologised to Kaushal yet. He doesn't expect one either. But he definitely feels that there is no need for someone to mock someone else without knowing anything about them. "The trolls will feel threatened by my appearance, somewhere it haunts them. But if you don't know someone, why would you share their picture? " he asks.
An alumnus of JNU, Kaushal also notices how every unconventional anti-CAA protestor is tagged as a JNU student automatically. "There was a figuration of JNU that happened in the past. The students are called members of the 'tukde tukde gang'. Now, these trolls don't even want to know where I'm from. For them, I automatically became a JNUite. JNU must be proud of it. But, at the same time, it shows a lot of deep-seated hatred that people have against these central universities," he says. "There are people from other campuses protesting, there are students from privileged colleges too out on the streets. This shows that something's definitely wrong," he says.
One of the borderline bizarre comments that Kaushal received from a troll is the one that said 'You do not care about the Dalits of Pakistan'. "Do you know me?" Kaushal asked in return. "I come from a Dalit family and I am a Dalit and queer activist. Come to my village and I can show you how bad things are. I want to know if any of these trolls gave land to the Dalits," he says. "Your worldview is challenged here and you're using my picture to justify all the ill-deeds of your government," he adds.
Kaushal also notes that when Section 377 was decriminalised in 2018, Vaidya shared news pieces lauding the government and supporting LGBTQIA+ rights.