Progressive India and Social Media

In 2005, when I was an undergrad atJUDE, our canny Registrar went on a holiday, and in the absence of his velvet-covered iron gloves, things fell apart spectacularly. What could have been a small matter, easily handled, became a scandal of novella proportions.Plotwise, 2005 was almost exactly similar to 2014: legitimate problem, indifferent admin, discontent students, peaceful sit-ins, marauding police force under cover of night. What is different, though, is the reaction of the people.

Back in oh-five, watching the news was hard for us. In the absence of social media, we could only converse with the public via the media houses, and they exploited this power to the full, letting through only the most incendiary edits of interviews, conversations and audience-response. Their TRPs soared, and at the end of the first two days, there was no doubt in the minds of middle-class deltaic Bengal that JU students were spoilt, elitist, alcoholic, drug-peddling, violent colonial dregs in constant state of sexual indulgence.
Similarly, there was little doubt in ours that we were adrift in a regressive, authoritarian and violent society that was hysterically obsessed with our imagined ‘western’ lifestyle because it was too dumb or too indifferent to the violation of our rights and bodies. Almost all of us reported to being grilled by our neighbours and families about “what really happened”. Some of us had scared parents attempting to keep us away from campus.

Imagine my delight and joy when, this time, I saw social media flooded with supportive comments and pledges of solidarity with the students. In eight intervening years, the people have found a platform for their voice, and the media has had to stop defaulting to slut-shaming female students, belittling their concerns, and labelling them agents of violent political militia.

It speaks volumes of great stuff for Calcutta (and Bengal overall) that its residents are contradicting, challenging and openly shaming the city police force on their Facebook page without the comforting veil of anonymity. It’s even more euphoric – yes, euphoric – to see the old popular defaults being trotted out after two full days of fulsome support, as a last-ditch smear effort… and being mocked and shouted down by people who, from their profile pages, appear otherwise conservative citizens.

It’s not true that every dark cloud has a silver – that’s just a silly platitude – but damned if this one wasn’t just shading the whole big sun.

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One comment

  1. Hey I haven’t been following this very closely. So couldn’t make out who tried last ditch smear efforts after 2 days of fulsome support? some media house? The police?
    And yes, doesn’t it feel wonderful to be a part of india that is now using social media to really put up the more progressive front we have been egging her on to all these years? 🙂

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