Social media turns pivot for Delhi protests
The massive protests that raged at India Gate last weekend to seek justice after the brutal gangrape of a 23-year-old woman in the Capital reminded many of the Egyptian protests that overthrew President Hosni Mubarak in more ways than one. HT reprots.delhi Updated: Dec 29, 2012 01:18 IST
The massive protests that raged at India Gate last weekend to seek justice after the brutal gangrape of a 23-year-old woman in the Capital reminded many of the Egyptian protests that overthrew President Hosni Mubarak in more ways than one.
Like in Egypt, the crowds were significantly aided by social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, besides activist blogs. India's estimated 130 million broadband connections, 60 million Facebook users and 35 million Twitterers are dominated by urban youngsters at the heart of the street marches.
Protest pages on Facebook and Twitter hashtags like #DelhiProtests, #DelhiGangRape and #StopThisShame acted like pivotal platforms to help activists conveniently arouse sentiments, announce protests and enlist demonstrators.
"Facebook is an important tool for me," said Ashmeeta Mehendiratta, who runs a website Dabangee.com to mobilise voices against sexual harassment. "When I can't be physically present among the followers of Dabangee, I virtually involve them to get them talking."
Kavita Krishnan of All India Progressive Women's Association (AIPWA), who has emerged a key leader in the protests, said, "People spontaneously stepped out of their homes for the cause. But yes, we mobilised people from campuses through social media and campaigning."
Text messages and phone calls completed the loop, and Delhi's efficient Metro network including stations such as Pragati Maidan, Patel Chowk and Central Secretariat close to India Gate helped the physical movement of protesters, though authorities shut some stations later.
Art consultant Deepika Shergill says she decided to attend a protest event at India Gate when she saw a Facebook friend mention that on her newsfeed.
A Facebook page called "Mass Protest Against Indian Laws for Rape Cases" is calling for a protest on December 31, and has 1,400 people already saying they will attend.
"Demand justice for gangrape victim and safer city for women" had got 9,500 people confirming attendance for last weekend's protests. A December 20 protest earlier got 3,700 people saying "Yes".
"I have coined the interesting phrase 'Kractivism,' which is an attempt to bridge online and offline activism," says Mumbai-based human rights activist Kamayani Bali Mahabal. This is clearly a graduation from "slacktivism" that armchair online thinkers were accused of.