From boycotting broadcast media to creating a digital front for the protests, to publishing a newsletter, farmer’s agitation on the borders of Delhi have brought out the tech-savvy side of protesting farm community
Farmers have been protesting on the borders of the National Capital since 26 November, and even though they may not have achieved what they said they set out to do — getting the Central Government to repeal the three new Farm Laws– they have been successful in establishing an online base for the protests as well getting their message across to netizens.
Such has been the success of the protestors on digital platforms that internet users have to be living in an area with no internet access to not have heard of them.
Since the early phases of the protests when farm unions camped on the borders of Delhi, they made it very clear that they do not wish to engage with the mainstream media which they allege is biased towards the ruling party. And then after allegations of the involvement of Khalistani groups and Pakistani support were levelled against the protestors, the unions set up their own dedicated IT cell to counter the “fake news” and propaganda against the protesting farmers.
Similar attempts were made, although not without similar planning or success, during the protests organised against the CAA and NRC staged in Shaheen Bagh; they soon fizzled out. However, in the case of the farmer’s protests, a level of success has been achieved.
According to a report by the Tribune, Baljit Singh, who heads the IT cell, says that accounts have been created under the name of ‘Kisan Ekta Morcha’ on various social media platforms, including Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat.
These accounts he says, have been created to bring forth the voices of the farmers and to counter the narratives that are aimed at discrediting the protests. “We decided to have our own IT cell to abort repeated attempts to defame us by dubbing us as Maoists or anti-national,” said Rajinder Singh, vice-president of Kriti Kisan Union.
Apart from the creation of social media accounts, with followers in lakhs, regular updates are posted on these handles to ensure that supporters of the protests are updated about the events and developments taking place. Updates include regular posts, Facebook lives, YouTube lives and Instagram videos. And with household names like Diljit Dosanjh and Swara Bhaskar supporting the protests, their reach is increasing.
Though some of the social media accounts were temporarily taken down by platforms, they are now up and running.
The IT cell has also released a community funded bi-weekly newsletter named Trolley Times, exclusively run by protestors which include long-form articles, features, illustrations and a Hindi section.
The newsletter is aimed at ensuring that the protestors stretching miles at the borders of Delhi are updated about the latest development and aims of the protests. As such, one of the headlines of the newsletter Trolley Times does justice to the idea that is driving the protestors, “Inquilaab di talwar vichaaran di saan tey tez hondi ae (the sword of revolution is sharpened at the whetstone of ideas”), a quote by Bhagat Singh.
Thus the farmer protests have achieved something most protests lose out on–getting out their side of the story in a way they want–and the community is making the most of it. After being labelled “Naxals,” “Khalistani” and even “misguided”, farmers protesting on the borders of the national capital are taking head-on the challenge of making their voices heard. And even as they refuse to play by the rules of traditional media, they have established a base from where their voices countering the narratives against them can reach their supporters and the larger public.