On World Environment Day, Zomato supposedly started an advertisement campaign to encourage hygiene and the recycling of plastic debris. In the advertisement, the Dalit character ‘Kachra’ from the Oscar-nominated film Lagaan appears as a paperweight, table, flower pot, hand towel, jacket, and lamp. The campaign closes with the hashtag #Let’srecycleKachra and aims to increase awareness of the quantity of garbage (kachra) connected to each item.
This contentious commercial, which only uses a Dalit figure as a prop, has come under fire for being insensitive to Dalits. It brought to mind a meeting I had with an advertising agency in Mumbai. The interviewer asked me about the subjects I write about during our conversation. I indicated that I write about Dalit issues, especially in urban settings, among other things. They were surprised and said, “Like for real? Exist Dalits in Mumbai in reality? Like they’re around us right now or something?”
I questioned whether they mistook Dalits for aliens or even some kind of psychic force that may or may not be nearby.