Punjab farmers’ protest clicks with virtual followers
BKU (Ekta Ugraha) and Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee, Punjab, register increase in online following since protests against the Centre’s farm laws intensified over the weekUpdated: Sep 29, 2020, 16:20 IST
The Punjab farmers’ agitation against the central laws aimed at liberalising the farm sector is not limited to rail and road blockades. It is finding resonance on social media too thanks to tech-savvy youngsters posting videos from protest sites, uploading interviews of leaders and sharing press coverage clippings.
The social media platforms are updated daily for the past one week and are getting an encouraging response in terms of views, likes, shares and comments.
“Punjab farmer rights’ associations are using cyberspace to build momentum for the movement against the central laws. It is probably for the first time that non-political organisations are using social media platforms in this manner,” says Rubal Kanozia, a media analyst and an assistant professor at Central University of Punjab, Bathinda.
The Bharti Kisan Union (Ekta-Ugraha) and the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee, Punjab, which are at the forefront of opposing the farm laws on the ground have registered an increase in following over the past week.
As on Tuesday, the BKU (Ekta-Ugraha) has more than 58,000 followers on its Facebook page that has been ‘liked’ by 45,000 users.
The Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee has a following of 59,000 Facebook users and the page has 30,000 ‘likes’.
The BKU (Sidhupur) has 22,000 followers and its FB page has gained 19,000 ‘likes’.
AGITATION ACCELERATES TRANSITION
BKU (Ekta-Ugraha) working president Jaswinder Longowal said the need to focus on social media was felt over the past week. “Though village youngsters associated with farmer organisations had been asking us to tap social media but this agitation has accelerated our transition in these changing times of communication. We are working to strengthen our presence on new media,” Longowal said.
Earlier this month, the association organised a nine-day round-the-clock dharna outside the residence of former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal in a Muktsar village to protest the farmer laws.
Pinder Ghumman, a lawyer and farmer at Sangrur’s Gharachon village, is the man behind the Ugraha group’s FB page. It was earlier a personal account of Ghumman but now he has converted it into the official account of the Left-leaning union that has its presence in Mansa, Sangrur, Barnala and Bathinda districts.
“I go to every important event of the agitation for a Facebook live. Sometimes, volunteers at far-off villages send us videos and photos of protests or any farmer-related issues. The application to make ours a verified page is still pending with Facebook,” he said.
NEW MEDIA AND SELF-RELIANCE
Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee, Punjab, president Satnam Singh Pannu, who has been spearheading the rail blockade agitation and camping on a track in Ferozepur since September 24, said social media is needed for public outreach.
“Volunteers such as Sukhwant Singh in Ferozepur are working tirelessly to share the dissent of Punjab’s farmers. Some of them are engaged in private jobs but they update our social media accounts during their spare time. Now even NRIs have started supporting our agitation and are offering financial support ,” said Pannu.
A law student from Muktsar, Karan Singh Bhuttiwala, who is managing the FB page of the BKU’s Sidhupur faction said, “New media has made us self-reliant. We can raise our voice independently. We don’t need conventional media to communicate farmers’ issues.”