We rarely give much thought to the different kinds of chairs we sit on, and see them largely as functional pieces of furniture.
For women like Jyothilakshmi Kudalingam, however, chairs and the protocols surrounding them can serve as stark symbols of discrimination.
Jyothilakshmi is the president of the panchayat of Kallakurani, in Tamil Nadu’s Sivagangai district. She was elected as the first Dalit president after the panchayat was demarcated a reserved one in 2020.
But when she assumed office, she was denied the revolving office chair that presidents typically use, and given a stationary “wire chair” instead.
As Johanna Deeksha found, reporting from Tamil Nadu, this is just one of the ways in which upper-caste individuals discriminate against Dalit women presidents, and seek to block them from performing their duties efficiently.
“The women I met during my reporting were ambitious, skilled and brave, but it seemed that none of these mattered in their line of work,” Deeksha said. “It only mattered that they were women from lower castes. Even winning elections did not guarantee them any kind of dignity or freedom to work independently.”