[WSMDiscuss] Dalits in movement…, India in movement…, Social Media in movement… : The WhatsApp wires : How Dalits organised the Bharat Bandh without a central leadership / Bharat Bandh in Pictures : Dalit protests turn violent across north India

JS CACIM jai.sen at cacim.net
Sun Apr 8 19:24:09 CEST 2018


Sunday, April 8, 2018

Dalits in movement…, India in movement…, Social Media in movement…

[This last Monday, April 2, India was knocked heavily off balance by a very major, ‘spontaneous’, self-organised, and networked Dalit protest across the country – protesting what they see as a “dilution” of the provisions of an important, longstanding legislation that penalises those of other castes who victimise Dalits and Adivasis.  (I apologise for this very late posting on this significant development, but I was offline right through last week – deep in the Narmada Valley, learning about the deep-rooted struggle that continues there.)

[This action follows a sudden development in the Supreme Court of India, where the court on its own ruled that the legislation in question was being “abused” and so it – and those who are prosecuted under it, all higher castes of course -, need to be ‘protected’ by more procedure…  See my post on March 22, ‘SC/ST Act : BJP’s Dalit MPs want government to file review petition against SC order (Liz Mathew, Indian Express) and ‘SC/ST Act being abused, prior sanction must for arrest, says Supreme Court’.  And against which there have been a whole slew of protests in this intervening period, from (Dalit) Ministers and Members of Parliament downwards.  But all that took place within the corridors of power; and here, in this massive action, Dalits as a mass took the matter into their own hands, and in the streets; and all but shut down the country.  And notably, not for the first time.  Their actions have been growing in scale, and import.  This is a space that anyone interested in so-called ‘social movement’ needs to watch…

[Here are two media reports on the event, and on the phenomenon, that are also interesting in of themselves.  The first is an attempt at a report (and to some extent, analysis) as to just how this networked protest took shape – in short, using social media, and without apparent ‘leadership’.  Which is indicative of a growing interest in the country in the emergence of what seems to be a new mode of politics and social action – and including in how the historically and structurally oppressed are coming into their own.  (And where the article is also illustrated by some great pictures.)

[The second – in a major mainstream newspaper – has a similar, slightly detached interest, and is also interesting for what it says in between the lines.  Although the overall ‘image’ that emerges is that ‘it was a violent protest’ – and therefore suggesting that ‘non-violence is better’, it's interesting how the article does not then take the next step of tarring the movement as a whole as being ‘violent’, aka anti-social, which always used to be the way the mainstream media looked at such actions, but rather all but seems here to accept the legitimacy of some degree of violence given the conditions that Dalits have to face, day in and day out….

[While neither of these articles is perfect – whatever that might be -, what they present and how they present it is also interesting, as what seems to be an emerging, slowly crystallising social and perhaps political phenomenon, of grudging, and perhaps slightly apprehensive, solidarity and respect across caste and class lines :

The WhatsApp wires : How Dalits organised the Bharat Bandh without a central leadership

Since 2014, when Narendra Modi showed it could be an effective political tool, social media has struck deep roots in India, significantly changing its politics.

Shoaib Daniyal <https://scroll.in/author/362>
Bharat Bandh in Pictures : Dalit protests turn violent across north India

Bharat Bandh : At least seven persons were killed and over 100 injured as protests by Dalit outfits against the alleged dilution of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act descended into chaos in various parts of the country

Express News Desk

            JS


The WhatsApp wires: How Dalits organised the Bharat Bandh without a central leadership

Since 2014, when Narendra Modi showed it could be an effective political tool, social media has struck deep roots in India, significantly changing its politics.

Shoaib Daniyal <https://scroll.in/author/362>
https://scroll.in/article/874714/the-whatsapp-wires-how-dalits-organised-the-bharat-bandh-without-a-central-leadership <https://scroll.in/article/874714/the-whatsapp-wires-how-dalits-organised-the-bharat-bandh-without-a-central-leadership>

A WhatsApp forward calling for an all-India strike seen on the phone of a Dalit protestor in Hindaun, Rajasthan | Shoaib Daniyal         
On Monday, various Dalit groups organised an all-India strike against the Supreme Court’s judgement barring the arrest of public servants under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Prevention of Atrocities Act, 1989 before a preliminary inquiry is conducted, apparently to curb the alleged misuse of the law. The protests were widespread and forceful <https://scroll.in/latest/874124/bharat-bandh-dalit-protestors-block-trains-in-bihar-odisha-against-scs-order-on-sc-st-act>, descending into violence at many places or provoking a violent reaction from upper caste groups. Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh saw deaths while Punjab requested the Union Home Ministry for paramilitary forces to control the situation.

Remarkably, given the national scale of the protests, there was no central leadership. The marches and demonstrations were organised locally, strung together through social media, specifically the messaging app WhatsApp. The federated nature of the protests is another example of the transformative impact social media has had on Indian politics.


'Not a rally, we want a surge of people,' says this WhatsApp message, urging people to 'please share it further'.
Group protest

OP Bharti is an advocate at the Tis Hazari court in Delhi and subscribes to the Ambedkarite ideology. In the run-up to the Bharat Bandh on April 2, he mobilised people by pecking away at WhatsApp. “I made groups for each court in Delhi as well as national groups to get people for the protests,” he explained.

The strike had little organised backing from political parties and was instead led by a host of local Dalit groups. Indeed, the first known call for the bandh was given by a local Dalit leader in Punjab’s Phagwara town. This was on March 27 and the protests were to be limited <http://indianexpress.com/article/india/punjab-dalit-activists-protest-against-supreme-court-verdict-on-sc-st-act-5113605/> to Phagwara.

However, this call was soon taken up by Ambedkarite groups across the country through social media. In a WhatsApp group run by administrators based in western Uttar Pradesh, a user “Vinu” exhorted people to shut down India on April 2: “You people keep on using WhatsApp for wishing people while there the SC/ST act has been rendered ineffective.”


'If a woman [Phoolan Devi] could show so much courage, then what are the country's 20 crore Scheduled Caste and 10 crore Scheduled Tribe citizens doing?'
‘Change your DP’

In Rajasthan’s Hindaun city <https://scroll.in/article/874598/rumours-mobs-and-arson-how-caste-riots-gripped-rajasthans-hindaun-city>, a message exhorted Dalits to change their WhatsApp display pictures to that of a bandh poster for 24 hours. The mobilisation in Hindaun – a place with little history of Ambedkarite politics – was so successful the organisers were unable to control the crowd; the protest descended into caste clashes in which the houses of two Dalit leaders, including the sitting legislator, were burnt down.

Another message gave instructions on what to do in case “BJP and RSS people infiltrate the rally and start to shout ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ slogans”, referring to the February 2016 incident of pro-Pakistan slogans being allegedly shouted at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi. What were the protestors to do if this happened? “Beat them up and shoot the whole thing on video,” they were told.


'While six crore Rajputs shook up the country over [the Hindi movie] Padmaavat, 40 crore Dalits are choosing to fast for Navratri instead of protesting the dilution of the SC/ST Act.'
Early on Monday, the day of the bandh, WhatsApp groups circulated real time photos of the protest, further exhorting people to get out and join the marches.

Social media entered the political space in the West about a decade ago. Most significantly, the 2008 United States presidential election saw <https://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/10/business/media/10carr.html> Barrack Obama use Facebook to campaign, bypassing more traditional methods of canvassing. In India, that inflection point came in 2014, with the Bharatiya Janata Party marshalling an online army to push the candidature of Narendra Modi. Now even small organisations such as the Ambedkarite groups that organised the bandh are employing social media to make a real impact on the ground.


One of the pictures from Bharat Bandh protests that was shared on Ambedkarite WhatsApp groups.

Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here <https://scroll.in/subscribe?utm_source=internal&utm_medium=scroll_article&utm_campaign=article_footer>. We welcome your comments at letters at scroll.in <mailto:?Subject=The%20WhatsApp%20wires%3A%20How%20Dalits%20organised%20the%20Bharat%20Bandh%20without%20a%20central%20leadership&to=letters at scroll.in>.     



Bharat Bandh in Pictures: Dalit protests turn violent across north India

Bharat Bandh: At least seven persons were killed and over 100 injured as protests by Dalit outfits against the alleged dilution of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act descended into chaos in various parts of the country.

By: Express Web Desk <http://indianexpress.com/agency/express-web-desk/> | New Delhi | Updated: April 2, 2018 11:01:21 pm             
http://indianexpress.com/article/india/bharat-bandh-dalit-protests-sc-st-prevention-of-atrocities-act-madhya-pradesh-up-5120977/ <http://indianexpress.com/article/india/bharat-bandh-dalit-protests-sc-st-prevention-of-atrocities-act-madhya-pradesh-up-5120977/>



Bharat Bandh: Dalit protests turned violent in various states as the bandh progressed in the day. (Express Photo by Javed Raja)
At least seven persons died and scores were injured in street protests by Dalits in different parts of the country against the alleged dilution of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act on Monday. Protesters blocked trains, clashed with police and set vehicles on fire across several states.

While five persons were killed in cross-firing in Madhya Pradesh, one person died in Uttar Pradesh and another in Rajasthan, according to officials. Curfew was imposed in several places and hundreds were detained. The Army and paramilitary forces were also put on standby in Punjab.

READ | Bharat Bandh: Seven dead as Dalit protests spiral out of control; Centre files review petition against SC/ST Act verdict <http://indianexpress.com/article/india/bharat-bandh-dalit-protests-sc-st-prevention-of-atrocities-act-narendra-modi-bjp-violence-madhya-pradesh-up-5120762/> Protests on Railway tracks during the nationwide Bandh in Ludhiana. (Express Photos by Gurmeet Singh) 
The Centre has called upon the state governments to take preventive steps and ensure the safety of lives of people and property.(Express Photos by Gurmeet Singh)
Normal life was disrupted in many states as Dalit protesters blocked trains, clashed with police and set ablaze vehicles in violent protests, officials said (Express Photo: Javed Raja)
In the wake of Dalit organisations’ call for a nationwide strike in protest against the alleged dilution of SCST Atrocities Act, the government filed a review petition in the SC. (Visuals from Ahmedabad/Express Photo by Javed Raja)  Protests during the nationwide Bandh in Ludhiana. (Express Photos by Gurmeet Singh) Dalit organisations held protests in Vadodara as part of the Bharat Bandh call to protest against the provisions of the SC/ST Act (Express Photo By Bhupendra Rana) At least seven persons were killed and over 100 injured as protests by Dalit outfits against the alleged dilution of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act descended into chaos in various parts of the country including in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. (Express Photo by Gurmeet  Singh) Road block in Connaught Place by Dalit activists after countrywide Bharat Bandh against the recent judgment by the Supreme Court on the SC & ST (Prevention) Atrocity Act 1989, in New Delhi on Monday. (Express Photo by Praveen Khanna)
On March 20, the Supreme Court had diluted certain provisions of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act in a bid to protect ‘honest’ public servants discharging bona fide duties from being blackmailed with false cases under the Act. However, the verdict elicited strong reactions from the Dalits and the Opposition who claim that the dilution of the Act will lead to more discrimination and crimes against the backward community.

______________________________

Jai Sen

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