When Emergency was imposed on India on 1975, the major strike was on the media. As a matter of fact the rule of decree by the Indian government was opposed by majority of political parties, political activists, thinkers, artists and common people alike. Nevertheless, a sense of airlessness prevailed in the country due to the curtailing of fundamental rights of people. Those leaders who were perceived to be even remotely related to this resistance ideology were promptly jailed. No news papers could afford to carry out anti-government viewpoints. Underground political activism was definitely present, but it was a common thing for those activities to be constantly ambushed by the police force.
‘Real’ news papers, main stream political activism and public gathering were literally absent from the lives of the citizens. It was the time when the freedom of speech suffered a major blow in this country. People needed a voice; their suffocation needed to be expressed if not addressed. The local tea shops in the villages and towns were the places where they found their voice. People would gather, not in too many numbers to avoid the attention of police, in those tea shops and exchange their thoughts on the current political scenario. As the ideas got conveyed to more citizens, their restlessness too got amplified. The injustice that was done to the people of this country due to political game strategy, needed to be reversed. The resentment had to be channelized so that it could bring a concrete change. People knew that they were denied of their basic rights; there were underground political activism in the full swing that fought for these rights but what was missing was the channel to bridge the gap between these two. And these tea shops did exactly the same. They brought the common people to the political activism. They gave a voice to their resentment and gradually help to change the history of Indian politics.
The stories of Emergency are as vivid and as they are adventurous. Perhaps, it is one of the most vibrant periods in Indian politics. But as far as activism in this country is concerned, that iconic period saw the end of an era. For the next three decades, there was literally no massive activism that took on the ruling class in this magnitude. However, those who have witnessed the emergency era are seeing the same trends re-emerging in the youths of this country today, but in a more refined and well constructive manner. The only difference is we have Twitter in the place of those legendary tea shops.
Power of this micro-blogging site was evident in the political phenomena across the world. The countries where media was strangulated or where the press was either state owned or where press had very limited freedom depended heavily on the micro-blogging sites like Twitter. American invasion of Afghan and Iraq, Civil uprising in Egypt, Syria and other Middle Eastern countries, Democracy movement in Myanmar, Civil rights movement in Tibet and many such instances continuously showcased the potential of Twitter to the world.
What is the power behind those 140 characters that revolutionized the mindsets and gave impetus to many a social and political movement in many parts of the world? I guess even the founders of twitter never thought that their brainchild would have this role to play. To understand this we need to go back to the basics of political movements. Any political movement needs the participation of people. If we look at the revolutions in the history, we find that those revolutions and political changes were heavily supported by the people. Poverty, unemployment, ruthless government, denied right or racial discriminations were issues; but what galvanized these issues were the massive support of people to the prospect of change. There are countries around the world which engage in many atrocities, even ignoring the universally accepted norms of human rights, and yet get away from any sort of public resentment. The governments often use their power to contain the growing antipathy of people. The other way out is curtailing the freedom of press and political rivals. Many nations have done this practice quite successfully.
Recently internet has been playing major role in the world politics. WikiLeaks has unearthed huge amounts of covert information that were hidden from the world. These revelations caused big challenges for the age old art of diplomacy that exists between countries. The merits of the methodology adopted by WikiLeaks can be discussed on a different debate; however they certainly gave a new weapon for the people who were involved in activisms. Media – unedited, real and straight from the people – was wide open for the use. Now people could broadcast their views on micro blogging site twitter without any fear of it being censored. Those who post these tweets need not be worried about writing technicalities since all it offered is a space of 140 characters for you. It is quite amusing that what should have been the drawback of this new social site is actually its major plus point. One does not have to be a great writer to tweet. The resentment, anger, public animosity, anti-establishment sentiment and anti-incumbency feeling gets transformed in to tweets and gets exchanged among the fellow social site users. The voice gets reverberated with more and more supporters eventually leading to a change in the ‘real’ world.
The role of Twitter is evidently becoming more in the current scenario. Especially when the government is using Victorian era laws to curb the freedom of speech and when there is a growing disappointment against both state-owned as well as corporate-owned media for their alleged bias in the presentation of news, twitter has become a new medium of discussion. It is becoming increasingly necessary for the conventional media houses to carry out the tweets in their media to showcase sense of public. Indian movement demanding ombudsmen to stop corruption has extensively used twitter so is the recent anti rape movements. Youth have used this medium effectively to promote the progressive ideology. The way twitter has been used in broadening the horizon of democracy is widely appreciated. I would say that Twitter has come in a time when the youth of India has started to actively taking part in the decision making process of the country. And yes, it is a healthy sign as far as democracy is concerned because the lethargy that was present in the politics of this country is being removed.