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Virtual Battlegrounds

An understanding of social media sites designated for a certain set of ideologies.

While baap-beti and uncleji-beta brawls have drawn a very deep line between the rightists and the leftists, social media has also been seen to take a deep dive into being a platform for the ones who like growing lotuses in their ponds and for those who don’t. The line that has been drawn with chalk dipped in water doesn’t seem to wash itself away anytime soon, owing to the varied opines brought in with the enactment of the Citizen Amendment Bill, 2019 which has resulted in the birth of battlegrounds on social media having created placards of ‘Lotus’ as well as ‘Loot-us’.

For the past few months since the enactment, a mere voicing of a remotely leftist comment can invite labels like ‘anti-national’, ‘pseudo-liberal’ and ‘communist’ by the same men and women who give out a loud cheer to communalism and dictatorship. These retaliations can be found in certain nooks and crannies of the World Wide Web namely, Facebook, considering the demographic that continues to use the platform. With the exploding participation of the millennials and the Gen Z on social media, we’ve seen a stark movement from platforms like Facebook to a more ‘youth-y’, more interactive platform like Instagram. Naturally, an arena like this would witness a certain amount of solidarity when it came to catering to a specific section of the mass. Students. The on-going resistance exercised on the Indian government has been fuelled by students throughout the country and the amount of awareness and information provided to the student community has made Instagram an ingenious tool of building a student revolution, not to mention a social media revolution. Social media seems to be more informative than most news agencies given the, tsk-tsk, owner and his questionably admissible ways of broadcasting pro-establishment content which possibly could brainwash a sect of its viewers. The Instagram page of Zee News in December covered the blood-curdling traffic from Noida to Kalindi Kunj. Only traffic.

“You’re too young to be woke.”, says the NRI bhaiya who hasn’t stepped out of his Canadian threshold for the past four years, while exercising rights given by a liberal government to a citizen who just became one 3 years ago. What usually follows is a very snarky “ch*tiyagiri” that spews so passionately from every pore of his Canadian-licked skin and a certain tsk-tsk that emanates the walls of his 5 bedroom apartment. The same is seen in our homes with the head of the family affirmating command-like statements with pointed gold-studded fingers, in a similar fashion to B. S. Yediyurappa who ordered for the demolition of the makeshift slums in Bellandur, Bangalore of suspected “illegal Bangladeshi immigrants”. They had papers. Well.

The stark difference between what’s happening on Facebook and Instagram is that of a clearly distinguishable political inclination. Our fathers, grandfathers and next door aunties have created for themselves a very definite doctrine and bask in ideologies they find is right (pun intended) while shunning every opposing opinion that comes their way with the blatant assumption that the other is a Congi and an anti-national, all the while calling the opposers “bacche log” as stated by our Home Minister, Amit Shah. Along with ‘literately illiterate’ and ‘communists’. There is never seen to be a spill into the Instagram sphere but when there is one into the rightist territory, havoc is wreaked. From dissing students into not building a bridge from the past to the present to not being informed, they are put down with every comment.

While WhatsApp University graduates still resort to calling active, non-politicised student protests an extra-curricular activity that would look good on resumes, the flagrant practice of islamophobia continues to try and seep deep into future generations, or at least that’s what our upper-class brahmins relatives taught us. Privilege seems to have taken an upper hand again when it comes to wounding yourself around facts that pledge to be a little more than out of your territory and something that you’ve personally never dealt with. But again, why wouldn’t a Brahmin man know what a Muslim woman is going through? “Why are the students, “the pillars of this nation” quiet tonight?” a relative asked me while mockingly making air quotes. “Christmas holidays?” he answered his own question, with a rather admonishing smirk. ““The pillars of this nation” have been sitting at Maurya Circle (Bangalore) for a 48 hour satyagraha. They’re 24 hours in.” I answered to which he laughed, shrugged and muttered “wow, that’s huge” sarcastically under his breath. Out of every visible, wakeful flaw that could be picked out of Amit Shah’s speeches, him calling students “bacche log” and him listing out Modi’s educational qualifications was the only thing that was picked out with pride, like the seven dwarfs picking out plump gooseberries with Snow White. These have been constantly used against students and have inadvertently been used as the only argument against protesting youngsters.

As I travelled from college one day to a protest site, in wake of the Act that was a week old at the time, I sat alongside my Kashmiri classmate with whom I was discussing the plight of Kashmir and how we were seeing a trickle, from Kashmir, to the North-East to the police brutality at Jamia. We remained silent for a few minutes until my friend jerked up startled by a few boys bursting fire-crackers on the side of the road. “Whenever I hear booms, the first thing that pops into my head are guns because back home, that’s the only boom we hear.” She said as I calmed her down with a hand on her shoulder.

When it comes to student-powered protests, we’re often put down with “protests se kya hoga?” obviously by staunch Sanghi men. We’ve seen students come out at night during the anti-emergency movement, Independence movements, #JusticeForRohith Movement. These have been written in history books and digital footprints as some of the most powerful and strongest movements to have ever taken the streets. The Anti-CAA one will be written the same and powerful tools like Instagram is making sure of that. While stories, posts and live videos on Instagram continue to inform others of the gasm that Bhajpa ruminates in, it has also built a sense of oneness and heightened voices of dissent that have been bogged down by the Sanghis and the Bhakts on the streets, and well, on social media too.

Even after this vast, gruesome, blood-swept battleground has been built for us, what we fail to realize is this is no more a political crisis but a humanitarian one. And we do not need a genocide to realize that.

-Mirika Rayaprolu

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