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Online activism in India

January 19, 2010

Inquilab 2.0? Reflections on Online Activism in India

by Anja Kovacs
via The Centre for Internet and Society site
Jan 13, 2010 03:10 PM

Since, in the late 1990s, protesters against the WTO used, in Seattle, a variety of new technologies to revolutionise their ways of protesting, much has been made of the possibilities that new technologies seem to offer social movements. In India, however, enthusiasm on this count seems to remain fledgling. In this blog post, Anja Kovacs introduces her research project, ‘Revolution 2.0?’, that seeks to explore online activism in India as it has emerged, so as to make a beginning to better understanding the contradiction.

When Nisha Susan launched, in 2009, the Pink Chaddi campaign, the ‘ICT for Revolution’-buzz finally seemed to have reached India also. Phenomenally successful in terms of the attention it generated for the issue it sought to address, the campaign sought to protest in a humorous fashion against attacks on women pub-goers in Karnataka by Hindu right wing elements. In only a matter of weeks, the Facebook group associated with the campaign – ‘The Consortium of Pub-going, Loose and Forward Women’ – gathered tens of thousands of members. Ultimately killed off when Susan’s Facebook account was cracked by opponents, the campaign was perhaps the singular most successful account of digital activism in India so far, and an impressive one by all measures.

The creativity of the campaign should not come as a surprise to those familiar with the long and rich history of activism for social change in India. Organised social actors have been critical influences in the emergence of new social identities as well as on critical policy junctures from colonial times onwards, developing a fascinating and unmistakably Indian language of protest in the process (see Kumar 1997 and Zubaan 2006 for examples from feminist movement).

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