New Delhi: India’s youth need to acknowledge their privilege, ‘protest rapper’ Sofia Ashraf said Friday in Hyderabad as she spelt out the need for feminism.
“If you’re here, with access to education, you’re privileged. If I’m here on this stage, being able to perform to this audience, I’m very privileged,” said the rapper.
She, however, also said one must not deny struggles too as “every battle was worth fighting for”.
Ashraf was in conversation with Rohini Swamy, associate editor at ThePrint, at the first edition of Democracy Wall’s second season at the CMR College of Engineering & Technology in Hyderabad.
Democracy Wall is a free-speech campus initiative. The latest edition was held at the CMR College of Engineering & Technology in Hyderabad. Lok Sabha MP & AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi, actress Nimrat Kaur, and IPS officer Rema Rajeshwari were the other participants at the event.
On journey as rapper
During an interactive session, the dynamic artiste shared her musical journey which began with rapping about being a ‘Hijabi’ in a university environment.
“I started off on a protest stage. We would use rap to talk about environmental pollution, industrial pollution, you know typical things rappers talk about,” joked Ashraf.
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Recounting her first event called ‘Don’t Work For Dow’ for engineering students, Ashraf asked if the audience knew what Union Carbide “was responsible for”. Many promptly answered with “Bhopal Gas Tragedy”.
“Yes! Who said the youth is dumb? It really annoys me when they say the youth doesn’t know their news,” said Ashraf.
She was referring to the December 1984 industrial disaster at the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal that killed several thousand people. The company was later bought over by Dow Chemicals.
Need for feminism
Asked about what she would say to those who felt there was no need for a feminist movement today, Sofia Ashraf shared her own struggle — of how she was stopped from playing sports at 10, and from dancing at 15.
She said she had to fight to study, to not get married off, to work, and to even be on stage. “My idea for feminism and women empowerment is that no girl should go to sleep, crying and wishing she’d wake up a boy for the sake of freedom,” said Ashraf.
Introducing the idea behind her song ‘Lucky’, she also spoke about the need for the youth to acknowledge their privilege. However, she urged the audience to not deny their own struggles as “every battle was worth fighting for”.
She highlighted the song lyrics: “You can’t distill my earnings to luck, You can’t discount my journey so far…”
‘Everyone is a troll now’
In the context of examples set by brash and rude politicians on television, a behaviour pattern that has now permeated into the digital realm, Ashraf said “politeness should be cool again”.
“There is a need for civility, everyone is a troll now,” she added.
Ashraf spoke about how she has been at the receiving end of rape and death threats online, and urged other women to not ignore serious online trolls. “Virtual abuse is real abuse. Report it.”
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