Thursday, June 02, 2011

You cannot bring revolution thru Facebook

I have noticed a few things about Facebook activism. There are very few updates on the site on weekends. So most people, it seems, use their office computer to practise this ‘activism’. An angry Facebook voice will never translate into meaningful action.

Along with these part-time activists, there is a new breed of ‘online activists’. I also notice that comments on one’s Facebook status or news posts are not given much attention—‘debates’ never go beyond the first comment.

I know from personal experience now, only too well, that the internet can at best supplement action on the ground, it cannot take its place. The internet can also give the impression that thousands of people are committed to a certain cause. There are pages with titles like ‘One Million to Stop Operation Green Hunt’ on Facebook. But where are those million people? The same few people update those pages all day, and ‘like’ the posts between themselves.

These people may empathise with an issue in all honesty, but they rarely ever act on their convictions. Recently, in March, there was quite an uproar after cases of arson, murder and rape were reported in Dantewada. A demonstration was planned in Delhi outside Chhattisgarh House, and going by the response on the internet, I thought there would be vociferous protests against the atrocities. But again, to my utter dismay, there were just about 20 odd people who turned up.

After the recent revolution in Egypt, people have started looking at the internet with great hope. It may have some hidden force that I am unaware of, but it is not my medium for activism that aims to achieve anything. Activists can use the internet as a platform, but if people begin to mistake an internet rant for real activism, then it’s a disservice to the cause.

Ironically, my activism today is restricted to posting updates on the internet, and that leaves me unhappy. I am restless and I want to get on the road again. But will any of those who offer online solidarity care to join me? Since returning to Dantewada would only lead to my arrest on false charges, perhaps my only way to stay connected with my work and people across the country is via Facebook.

My mind, however, is busy conjuring real ideas and plans. Offline. It’s what offers me hope.  Real hope.
Himanshu Kumar with Priyanka Borpujari in Open. Here

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