Cyberactivism in India- T.M. Ladwa

Activism has long been the mobilization of people for political rights, fighting the social issues like suppression, untouchability, racism, fascism, poverty, hunger, environmental degradation, terrorism or any other issue which is concerned to mankind or environment as a whole. The strength of this activism is the collectivism and awareness which has brought many social change and present social order.

Activism in India is shaping up to take on the dynamic challenges the country is facing and would face in future. The age old technique of mobilizing the people for a cause is door to door campaigning , rallies, news paper activism and many more techniques which India has witnessed in pre and post Gandhian era. The Left parties all over the world including India have championed in mobilizing these techniques which along with Gandhian constructivism earned India its long cherished independence.

The introduction and advancement of Information and communication technology has added a new effective breathing space for activism that mobilizing people especially the young has almost become spontaneous and energetic.

The ICT has various faces like Radio, Television, Internet, and Telecommunication. The influence of Radio and Television has already been witnessed in the post world war era, where in information reached the citizen on real time bases and today numerous news and radio channels have the capacity to reach out more wider people base than news papers ever could and this was evident in Anna Hazarre’s famous anti-corruption campaign. The support of both print and electronic media made it possible to break the resilience of people of India against corruption and it was no surprise when crowd in Jantar Mantar swelled in thousands.

The Networking has come to be new age tool of connecting people virtually. This has unleashed new experience of communication of ideas, beliefs, and emotions. The social networking sites like Facebook twitter, Orkut and many more has been estimated to have around 600 million users globally. The blogging has been another tool reaching out with ideas to mass and it is no surprise that some energetic bloggers have come to be over night celebrities who have huge fan following that, when they talk, no politicians can sit silent on the issue.

Green peace was one among the organization which early recognized the strength of this network, when it launched this cyber activism to bring justice to Bopal gas tragedy victims. It opened café outside union carbide office and anyone would walk in to fill the petition. The petition was circulated to thousands of mail box and a combined petition was delivered to PMO. This act injected fresh enthusiasm into this movement which was lost in the wind.

“Save Tiger” was another kind of cyber activism launched by green peace and was huge success, when Environment ministry took serious steps regarding the same. The project also got huge attention from both electronic and print media. Today Green peace is independent watch dog on environmental issues globally. It prepares a petition describing the various details about the issue and its plan to take on the issue, after going through the petition the person sign’s the petition digitally. The website of green peace contains in great details about the issue and their reasoning is highly scientific.

“Children rights and You” is a NGO, which has taken to cyber activism on children’s rights. “Amnesty International” has taken the same route regarding human rights and peace. Similarly there are various social organizations which have taken to cyber activism and have garnered huge support for the cause.

In 2009, Shri Ram sene attacked mangalore pubs by assaulting girls, teaching them how to dress and behave in public places. The act was criticized in the media and Government took action against people responsible for it, but the sharp response came from cyber activism. Some group of female activists Blogged about the incident and organized “pink chaddi campaign”, the response was so huge that some 30000 pink panties flooded to shri ram sene’s office as sign of love. This response took Gandhigiri to a new level and power of cyber activism was experienced so much that, the moral policing was discussed in great detail for weeks in the entire country. The response was so fast and innovative that the ideological group could not garner any support for its act nor its ideology.

India being the largest democracy in the world has voter turnout percentage in 40-50% range. The young population which accounts for major percentage of the population does not turn out to vote in great numbers especially the educated.” Janagraha centre for citizenship and democracy” and Tata tea jointly launched “Jaago re” campaign to practically realize voter’s education through cyber activism. They have gone to an extent in designing online tools to register the voters and tasted huge success.

To get justice in Jessica lal murder case was real testing ground of cyber activism. The high profile people involved in the murder case would have made a joke out of justice system in India, if some activists would not have launched “candle light march” in support of the case, cutting straight through the issue and brought police into action and rest is history known to all.

26/11 terror attack brought Mumbai to its feet, during this high terror drama, cyber activism really came of age, when real time information was blogged and discussed in the network, bringing out the security loop holes in the system. The activists did not just discuss the issue, they came out to streets demonstrating the short comings and educating the public on how to help the law enforcement authorities on providing the information on security situation.

The network has also proved to be a good platform for raising funds for noble causes which otherwise is a costly process. The present time of cyber activism is looking brighter with millions of member’s adding to the network continuously. The Syrain uprising and Arab spring are living examples how cyber activism is revolution in itself.

The freedom of speech guaranteed by the constitution would not have got better platform than this network. Cyber activism is good or bad? The present time is very early to say. Sometimes unverified information flows through the network which frames unhealthy opinion about many issues.

The cyber activism in India has long journey to make. This kind of activism is in juvenile stage. The growing of computer literacy is promising feature of this activism. It should not limit itself on to just discuss the issue rather this activism should be seen as a facilitator of the main stream activism. The journey made still now has to reach new heights and set an example for coming generations. Following the iceland’s case where in their new constitution was discussed and voted on Facebook, similar exercise should be seen in coming age where in government of India discusses its policies on the network and voting is made on the same, online. (Essay Contributed by T.M.LADWA)