Fighting disinformation with facts, movies and social media
When student-activist Navkiran Natt, 29, joined the farmers’ agitation in November and watched it grow, she realised the need to counter misinformation on the protests. Thus, the four-page Trolley Times was born and Natt became one of the three editorial team members responsible for collating information and producing the trilingual newsletters.
While the printed copies are in Gurmukhi and Hindi, the founders are posting the content in English on their website as well. The first edition was printed on December 18 and since then the circulation has grown from 2,000 to 7,000 copies, and the newsletter is distributed across the three protest sites at Singhu, Tikri, and Ghazipur. Apart from stories on the farmer protests and the contentious farm laws, the newsletter also has cartoons, poems, and opinion pieces written by farmer union leaders.
“Many news organisations were derailing the narrative by branding farmers as Khalistani, Maoists, and anti-nationals. We realised there was a need to counter this from within and bring out the plight of the common farmers,” said Natt.
Launched as a weekly, Trolley Times became a bi-weekly after the violence during the tractor rally.
The seven-member team that brings out the newsletter holds meetings after every edition and decides on a theme for each week and then contacts writers. “The social media circulation of the digital version of our bi-weekly has helped us reach a greater audience. Since we have allowed people to print it and distribute the newsletter without modifications, people have also been translating it into at least five Indian languages and four foreign languages,” said Natt who was a practising dentist till she joined the protest along with her family.
The activist pursued her degree in dental medicine from Chandigarh before opting for film studies at Ambedkar University in 2018. Before joining the farmers’ protest, she was working with a US-based non-governmental organization (NGO) on their 1947 Partition Archives as a paid intern. However, once she found her place in the protest, she quit the internship.
Natt, who has been associated with the All India Students’ Association (AISA) for over a decade, had also been jailed for protesting against a slum demolition in Chandigarh in 2015. “My parents have also been activists and have been jailed over five times. They too have been camping with me at Tikri since the first day. Having parents who understand the importance of participating in mass movements definitely helps,” she said.
The young activist’s day at Tikri involves a variety of tasks including managing logistics, arranging for supplies, cleaning tents, preparing rotis at community langars, managing the libraries, holding discussions with people and also engaging with them at ‘Trolley Talkies’.
“When people come and live on the streets during a protest, the roads turns into temporary cities and homes. We had to provide means of entertainment for them. That is why we hold movie screenings showing progressive films and documentaries so that cinema can also be used as a tool of resistance,” she said.
Asked about her takeaway from the protests she has been part of, Natt said, “In the past few months, I have learnt that our generation lacks patience. We get agitated that nothing is happening but here farmers are determined that their agitation will bring about a change. It is a lesson I keep close to my heart.”