Dr. Manjot Singh: Harnessing Social Media Will Ensure 2021 Does Not Become 1984
The pendulum of power has swung towards the people, which is why the Indian government has begun to bully Twitter into unjustly deleting accounts and blocking hashtags
Dr. Manjot Singh
February 10, 2021 | 3 min. read
The images and videos coming out of Delhi over the past few weeks are difficult to digest.
The horrifying sights of state-sponsored goons attacking innocents, with full Delhi Police complicity, evoke bloodcurdling feelings of eerie reminiscence. Many have highlighted the parallels between the ongoing Kisaan Morcha and the events leading up to and including 1984.
The Dharam Yudh Morcha of the early 1980s was also a long-term agitation fighting for basic rights, where the common man had legitimate grievances with the state. There were widespread efforts to demonize that movement as well, with accusations of terrorism, separatism, and communism.
There were virulent propaganda and othering spread through the state-sponsored media machinery. The impingement of free speech was monumental, with widespread censorship of independent journalism and, eventually, a complete media blackout of the Punjab state. The recent arrests of journalists Mandeep Punia and Dharmender Singh, as well internet blackouts and censorship on social media platforms like Twitter, signal a continuation of this long-standing practice.
The culmination of these nefarious government tactics was the infamous Operation Bluestar and the Sikh Genocide of 1984.
The Congress government propaganda machinery was so powerful at the time that even many Sikhs bought the government narrative. It was so powerful, that the Congress government won the following general election in a landslide victory garnering support almost everywhere but Punjab. Indira Gandhi and her government were entirely successful in creating a national enemy out of their own citizens, peddling vitriolic messaging to sway public opinion and then crushing legitimate dissent whilst simultaneously securing political victory.
However, many decades have since passed. The world is different.
With all the similarities, there are also numerous, crucial differences between 1984 and 2021. Every person now owns a mobile phone. Every person has multiple social media accounts. Most importantly, every person has a voice. The days of one-sided government media propaganda are long gone.
The pendulum of power has swung towards the people, which is why the Indian government has begun to bully Twitter into unjustly deleting accounts and blocking hashtags.
We have a responsibility to continue playing our part in the historic Kisaan Morcha in the face of this attempted silencing. Those of us sitting in the diaspora cannot be with our people in the flesh but there is still a lot we can do across oceans and borders, thanks to the most connected period in human history.
We must each utilize our social media followings to amplify the true essence of the kisaan message.
We must help counter the disinformation campaign spearheaded by the well-oiled BJP IT Cell.
We must write to our local politicians and highlight the plight of India’s kisaans in order to apply international pressure on the Modi government.
The recent developments we have seen in Delhi mean that it is now imperative that we encourage our family members back home to remain vigilant and tyaar bar tyaar.
We must also not underestimate the power of our own Naam Simran, Gurbani, and Ardaas. This is the very power that allowed our forefathers to be severed joint-by-joint whilst remaining in Chardi Kala. The same power that enabled one to continue fighting on the battlefield despite decapitation. It is the same power that allowed a man to charge at a drunken armoured elephant on horseback with just a Nagni (snake-spear) and come out victorious.
This is the very power that will ensure victory for our kisaans in 2021.
The Kisaan Morcha of 2020 and 2021 has lit a fire in our youth that will continue to burn in coming generations. We are living through history that will be told and retold to our children and grandchildren. It is therefore paramount that we personally do everything in our power.
There is a reason why the Indian government has now escalated pressure directly on social media executives. Remember that it is not 1984, it is 2021. Everyone has a voice. That will be the difference this time in sharing the truth and securing global scrutiny to protect our people.
Kisaan Majdoor Ekta Zindabaad!
Sri Akaal Sahai
* The Sangat of Sikh Twitter has created a group dedicated to the purpose of countering false narratives and propaganda online. If anyone wishes to be a part of this, they can get in touch with me via Twitter at @GabbarRaikoti.
Dr Manjot Singh is Junior Doctor based in the West Midlands, United Kingdom. You can find him on Twitter at @GabbarRaikoti
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