Amidst Anna Hazare Hunger Strike, Social Media Use in India Surges
First it was the Middle East, followed by China and, most recently, England. Now here comes India. Social media has gained traction in India, as people use various platforms to organize awareness campaigns in support of veteran activist Anna Hazare, who announced that he would go on a hunger strike until death for the Jan Lokpal Bill, an independent anti-corruption law first proposed in 1968. Since then, Hazare’s fight has reportedly inspired “millions … [f]rom rickshaw drivers to software engineers, from businessmen to spiritual leaders, people from all walks of life.”
But first, a juicy infographic about how social media might’ve played a role in all this:
100 million people in India use Facebook. That’s larger than the entire population of the Philippines, or of Germany, or of France. And though only 8.5 percent of the country is connected to the Internet, that 8.5 percent are a rather social bunch.
According to this recent infographic, India is ranked as the third largest national population on Facebook with 31 million people. In first and second place are the U.S. and Indonesia, respectively. Around 13 million people in India use Twitter.
So it seems inevitable that people would flock to the web upon hearing about Mr. Hazare’s cause, leveraging the affordances of social networking sites to drive a global protest campaign. India Against Corruption (IAC), a non-profit organization in India, has received over 450,000 likes on their Facebook page. The Twitter crowd has also made use of trending hashtags like #annahazare, #kiranbedi (in reference to another Indian social activist), #DelhiPolice, and #janlokpal.
Some have come to dub the Jan Lokpal legislation campaign as “the first Social Media Movement of India.” According to one blogger, two students from Sastra University have even developed an Android application that will aggregate the most recent Lokpal news and events:
The app may sound too optimistic given how an appointed Lokpal is still a distant dream. But given how the movement is largely driven by the flow of news in the form of text and visuals and also on how sentiments that are affected in the public with every single piece of progress and failure has shaped the mass opinion over months this app might just play the all-important role of the backstage hand to the stage of Indian socio-politics.
Of course, dissenters have also cast their opinions into the mix. Blogger Jeff Shawn Jose suggests that most supporters — the majority of them middle-class Indians — were misled into action, and moreover, it is an action that is neither effective nor educated.
Anna Hazare and co. were literally holding a democratically elected government hostage inorder to toe their line in the Jan Lok Pal bill. The bill according to Hazare is the magic wand that will wipe away corruption from India, that too only when prime minister is brought under its ambit. Anna Hazare’s movement was not a natural movement [which originated] from the people, but a centrally planned initiative by India Against Corruption that shrewdly cashed in on the public who found difficult to count the number of zeroes in the 2G corruption and adopt[ed] the social network and communication strategy employed by people in [the Middle East] to over throw dictators.
Nevertheless, Hazare’s strategy seems to have worked. He has since been asked to meet with Congress leaders. According to the Wall Street Journal, his group is “nearing a compromise” with the Indian government, having reached “tentative agreements” over the creation of an independent anti-corruption agency.
But is it truly digital civic action, or simply a wave of mob thought that undermines true democratic conversation?
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TAGS: Anna Hazare • democracy • Facebook • India • India Against Corruption • infographic • protest • social media • Twitter
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