The Great Indian Social Debate

There has been much ado in the world of late. Real world troubles spilling over and echoing in the virtual world, social media-driven protests sparking off revolutions, individuals thronging on to social networks to find a platform of shared beliefs and an ardent community of fellow believers… As we live more of our lives online, these are but the beginnings of the reactions and responses the world can expect from our species that has found a new stage to express its emotions, beat its breast, rally support, offer refuge, lend a helping hand, and do a lot more, a lot faster.
In India, nothing has driven home the sharp thrust of this phenomenon deep into the slumbering behemoth of our unwieldy democracy like the might of an unassuming 73-year-old named Anna Hazare. Called a Gandhi wannabe by critics, he has nevertheless stirred up the collective consciousness of this country of myriad divides. His weapons of choice are non-violent and his iron stance is against one of our country’s most debilitating factors: corruption. For, his version of the Lokpal Bill–now dubbed the Jan Lokpal Bill–promises a fearless India where every person in power will be made answerable to his countrymen for a misdeed.

Nothing else could perhaps have so wholly caught the imagination of a people so beleaguered by the everyday revelation of scam after scam amounting to crores of rupees even as the country flails for funds for development activities, to aid the poor, strengthen the education system, infrastructure, and more. What is remarkable about the Anna Hazare-led movement is its online reflection. A search on Facebook for Anna Hazare throws up a number of Pages, two of which boast a combined follower count of more than 4 lakh. Call it armchair activism or what you will, but it does stand to reason that the people who signed up on these pages felt some sort of connection, however tenuous, with Hazare’s cause. During his last protest, candlelight demonstrations in support of Hazare were organised and held via Facebook event invites.
It is indeed a defining time for the world in general, and our democracy–poised at the verge of a promising future–in particular. With one in every three Indians with Internet access opting for a Facebook account and more and more Indians signing up with powerful social networks like Twitter, it is but natural that social media will soon have the power to spark, evolve and guide movements and revolutions. We have seen it happening elsewhere in the world; in our democracy that spans the diverse factors of language, region and religion, perhaps social media will help Indians find common ground and fight for the common good.

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