From the Pink Chaddi campaign in 2009 to the Kashmir uprisings or the Arab Spring later, internet has given new means of expression to protestors across the world, according to experts.
The role of internet, especially social media, in modern protests was a much discussed topic at a seminar on effects of ‘cyberian’ trends on modern culture, at the capital’s Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) university.
Uzma Falak, a scholar at JMI, claimed that “when the Kashmir government clamped down on local media during the 2010 uprisings, internet provided a platform for the citizen journalists, with tech-savvy youngsters uploading and sharing videos and pictures when journalists could not report”.
“Although the stealthily shot videos of security forces damaging vehicles and property during the curfew didn’t find place in Indian media, they were widely circulated on internet,” she claimed.
“The internet facilitated a space for dissent, expressing solidarity, registering protest, mobilisation and shaping of political discourse. It corresponded with the global phenomenon where several Middle Eastern countries witnessed massive unrests, believed to be fuelled by social media,” Falak added.
Arab Spring was a series of demonstrations and protests in the Arab world that began on Dec 18, 2010, and forced the rulers from power in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen, while triggering civil uprisings in Bahrain and Syria.
The defining feature of the movement has been the use of social media such as Facebook and Twitter to organise, communicate, and raise awareness in the face of state attempts at repression and internet censorship.
Another scholar from JMI, Sapna Taluja, agreed. In her paper, she said that following the Sri Ram Sena’s attacks on women at Mangalore pubs in January 2009, “something unprecedented happened.”
“‘A Consortium of Pub-Going, Loose and Forward Women’, a Facebook group, launched the Pink Chaddi campaign against this organised violence against women. The campaign went viral and hundreds and thousands of the pink underwears were sent to the office of Sri Ram Sena,” she said.
Taluja claimed this “was a very creative, novel, Gandhian and effective way of protesting, making a real point through the use of virtual means.”
Social activist Anna Hazare has been using social media extensively in his India Against Corruption (IAC) campaign.
With more than five lakh internet users ‘liking’ the Facebook page of IAC and another two lakh-plus followers on the movement’s Twitter handle, the effect of social media on the campaign has been tremendous.