03 August, 2021

E-Nquilab Zindabad

SMSes, candlelight vigils, online petitions —the new way to participate in a protest

Sanjoy Ghosh
E-Nquilab Zindabad
The trend began in February. As news of the acquittal of all the accused in the Jessica Lall case spread, middle class India did something new. They reached for their cellphones and text messages flew from mobile to mobile as people tried to mobilise mass support for a public outcry against this mockery of justice. A crowd gathered at New Delhi's India Gate and held a candlelight vigil, a la Rang De Basanti. Thousands of people from across the nation sent overpriced SMSes to four-digit commercial numbers in protest. Here was the beginning of a new form of public protest in India—agitations conducted from the comfort of an armchair.

Old forms of protest were not so comfortable. They demanded that politicians identify issues and expound on them to the public, and that masses of disaffected people—factory workers, farmers, labourers—hit the streets shouting slogans and brandishing placards. Cities were paralysed with crowds jamming the streets and public transport workers uniting with them. Marches went to the heart of where the...

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