Anti CAA protests: Social media's ripple effect keeps 'kranti' fire burning

Updated: 20 December, 2019 07:34 IST | Debjani Paul | Mumbai

Endless, fervent calls on social media help people stay updated on the venue and timing changes of one of the biggest protests held in the city against CAA on Thursday

Like the Carter Road march the day before, this protest on Thursday, too, was put together in a matter of days, but witnessed massive crowds from across communities and all walks of life. Pics/ Atul Kamble
Like the Carter Road march the day before, this protest on Thursday, too, was put together in a matter of days, but witnessed massive crowds from across communities and all walks of life. Pics/ Atul Kamble

The hallowed ground of the nation's civil disobedience movement, August Kranti Maidan reverberated with chants of "Azadi" once again on Thursday. Except this time around, the crowds had been brought together by endless, fervent calls on social media for protesting a law that has united the nation against its purported divisiveness.

"I don't personally know any of the people who have suffered in Assam, Kashmir, or the protesting students who were lathi-charged at Jamia Millia Islamia. But I've seen their pictures on Twitter, and watched videos about their plight. Now I feel this strong sense of solidarity with them," said Pranjali Dubey, 23, a YouTube sketch writer.

Like the Carter Road march the day before, this protest on Thursday, too, was put together in a matter of days, but witnessed massive crowds from across communities and all walks of life

Pranjali was among hundreds of Mumbaikars who showed up at the Tardeo ground on December 19, armed with placards and slogans against the recently enacted Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and equally controversial National Register for Citizens (NRC).

Like the Carter Road march on the day before, this protest too was put together in a matter of days, but witnessed massive crowds from across communities and all walks of life. Most of them, like Dubey, found out about the cause and the protests through social media. "Most of us, at least among the people I know, have turned up here today after learning about the issue through Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. The most crucial thing about the Internet is that it is democratic. Everybody has a voice there; it removes all the 'glass barriers of religion or class', so to speak," she added.

Pranjali Dubey

Just yesterday, over 1.75 lakh people had tweeted #IndiaAgainstCAA, and another 36,000 tweeted #MumbaikarsAgainstCAB, putting both hashtags in the top trending topics on Twitter for the day. The massive turnout at the protest and the clamour online has given hope to Saifee Suma, 19, tuition teacher and henna artist. "I've been keeping track of the issue and protest on Instagram too. So many people are talking about this online. Social media is the best way to explain something complex like the CAA to the masses. So many of our voices never reach TV media, but online, we are heard."

Of course, like any other powerful tool, how social media is used — or misused — depends completely on the individual. Fake news and hoaxes were also circulating in great numbers, especially through WhatsApp. It was after receiving such a forward from a family member that Sanjana (last name withheld on request), a 25-year-old content creator, got curious about the CAA. "Some might blindly believe everything they read on WhatsApp, but I went online and read up on the issue and learnt how grave it was, and the devastating impact it could have on millions of Indians. For the last three days, it's all I've been doing, reposting about CAA and the protests," said Sanjana.

Varun Anchan

This is exactly how everyone kept track of the changes in venue and timing made by the police. Varun Anchan, 33, creative director at an ad agency, said, "Posting on Instagram or other social forums has a domino effect. I have a wide network of friends online, and once I saw somebody's post about the change in venue, I reposted it, and more people found out. That is how so many people are present here today, despite the cops changing venue and timings twice."

"Social media is the best mobiliser of people because everyone is on it constantly, and when we want to see something happen, we will keep track of it." Sanjana chimed in, "It's especially important for a generation that isn't into newspapers. When we see so many people posting about CAA, it makes us curious what everyone is talking about. That is how the awareness spread."

Social media is often considered a tool solely of the youth, but that's not entirely true. Seventy-three-year-old Rashna Gandhy found out about the protest through Facebook and WhatsApp and kept track of all the updates in time and location changes. "Everyone is on social media now; there is no excuse for staying silent. And social media is an essential forum at a time when other media have been suppressed."

1.75 lakh
No. of people who tweeted #India AgainstCAA

33k
No. of people who tweeted #Mumbaikars AgainstCAB

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First Published: 20 December, 2019 07:25 IST

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