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by Prasad Krishna last modified Jun 05, 2012 04:23 AM
Activism goes online as more angry young citizens decide to make their voices heard, writes Sandhya Soman in an article published in the Times of India. Pranesh Prakash is quoted in the article.

If there was a software code to ‘Invite All’, then Ashish D and friends would’ve called the world to land up at Gateway of India on June 9. The next best option for this netizen from Mumbai was to go online.

Hacktivism –– a form of activism for social change that uses computers and electronic networks –– is back. And the most recent protest is from hacker group Anonymous, which is trying to gather public support to stem internet censorship and blocking of websites in India by service providers and the government recently.

Since showing up in front of the town hall is not enough, Ashish has set up a Facebook page. Fellow netizens, irritated by the arbitrary blocking of sites and impressed by Anonymous OpIndia’s jabs at websites of political parties and corporates, are signing up to discuss the best possible venues to protest from.

Is there a better place than Marina beach in Chennai to make the maximum impact, wonders one user while another says it would be better to split up to cover more area in Mumbai. According to Pranesh Prakash, lawyer and programme manager at The Centre for Internet and Society, a Bangalore-based research organisation, a strong online presence helps protests to get publicity. A lot of the Jan Lokpal agitation happened online, he says.

“It is not enough to fast at Jantar Mantar. If you get 1,000 people to click ‘like’ or 40 people to retweet your tweet, then the site becomes the default area of protest,” he says. If those petitioners are 10 influential people, then it carries more weight with the media than a few hundred shouting slogans on the street.

“Also called electronic civil disobedience, hacktivism is geared to political ends,” writes Pramod K Nayar in his book ‘An Introduction to New Media and Cybercultures.’ Virtual sit-ins involving intellectuals and ordinary citizens and bombarding authorities with emails have been used by Mexican revolutionaries, Tamil separatists and protesters in Iran and the Middle East. “Hacktivism is clearly here to stay,” writes Nayar.

But it is not enough to collect a few digital signatures, says Nithin Manayath, one of the people behind the 2009 ‘Pink Chaddi’ campaign, which sought to protest in an irreverent manner the attacks against women by the radical Sri Ram Sena. Manayath and his friends sustained the campaign through a Facebook group, which saw thousands of pairs of pink underwear being sent to the office of the group that attacked women for what it considered ‘violations of Indian culture’.

“Marches, candlelight vigils and dharnas are something we do regularly. By the tenth dharna you will be so jaded that you go to the protest venue to meet friends,” says Manayath. After a while, this happens to online petitions also if you are not thinking about what you are doing. “What I liked about the ‘Pink Chaddi’ campaign was that we were responding to violence with a shameless act. It made me aware about many things and the novelty of the protest resonated with many people,” he says.

Though the current campaign is going the offline way on June 9, the hacking and denial of service attacks on websites by Anonymous have ensured that issue of blocking got publicity. “There is corporate and private censorship of internet and it is being done without enough proof of who is violating the copyrights of moviemakers. If these protests create awareness about the larger issues and developments in the areas of e-governance, IT Act and copyright law, then they could be helpful,” says Pranesh Prakash.

Meanwhile, Anonymous OpIndia, which is hoping for lifting of ban on websites, is already getting feelers from eager citizens on future issues. “Many people have requested us to protest other issues such gasoline price hike,” says a member. “And we always tell them that there are no strict rules, they can protest as per their needs.”


Through Facebook, the ‘Pink Chaddi’ campaign of 2009 encouraged women to send undergarments to Sri Ram Sena. The right-wing group had attacked women for ‘violations of Indian culture’

Jan Lokpal campaign in 2011 had support from various online forums. They sent petitions to political parties and inundated a government website with e-mails.

Following the blocking of websites due to a court order to prevent copyright violations.

Anonymous OpIndia targeted government and corporate websites. It is mobilising people for protests in nearly 11 cities on June 9.

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ASPI-CIS Partnership


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