Social networking websites have emerged as the weapon of choice for protestors. They have the power to dislodge rulers. BeyondHeadlines’ RATNENDRA PANDEY meets the man behind Anna Hazare who has used the internet to propel a homegrown revolution.
New Delhi: The fight against corruption and social injustice in India brings up names like Anna Hazare (RTI campaigner), Kiran Bedi (former IPS officer), Arvind Kejriwal (activist), and Swami Agnivesh (social worker). Less noticed is Shivendra Singh Chauhan, a 33-year-old journalist who led the India Against Corruption (IAC) campaign.
Shivendra, suffers from back pains – attributed to spending 18 hours a day networking with activists via Facebook and Twitter. He has been unable to walk for the last three months but is still slogging on for this cause, despite doctors’ advice to take proper rest by lying in bed and not to sit on chairs or even cushions for long hours. A graduate of Lucknow University, Shivendra works in one of Delhi’s leading dailies, Navbharat Times. He came to Delhi from Lucknow in 1998 to study law but gave it up after a year for journalism.
“My life has revolved around the periphery of my laptop for the past three months. I have forgotten everything except Facebook and Twitter. My social life has ceased to exist,” he admits. The original man behind the Jan Lokpal Bill (People’s Ombudsman Bill), Shivendra has been ignored by the media. Through these social media portals Shivendra chooses leaders against corruption from various cities and towns to join his campaign.
Avinash Das, eminent Hindi blogger says the media have never approached him. “Shivendra believes in working. He is dedicated to his work and more concerned with his cause rather than fame.”
“While the mainstream media is more concerned with catering to the masses, the social media is committed to connecting people. Maybe this was the main reason behind the kind of coverage that Anna Hazare’s fast got,” Avinash said.
Shivendra uses social networking sites to mobilise public opinion and meet new people. His Facebook IAC page has over 200,000 followers. He posted an update on his IAC page and nearly 900 people liked that status in the first six minutes.
Before IAC, he had a Facebook page called “Commonwealth Jhel” (Commonwealth Suffers) which gained immense popularity during the games. After the success of the Commonwealth Jhel he began his fight against corruption, when he met Arvind Kejrival, a social worker and RTI activist.
“I always like people who work behind the scenes and Shivendra is now an idol for us. He always thinks about the country,” says Avinash.
Shivendra says it was mid-November when he thought about the IAC campaign. “I met Arvind and his team. We worked hard and arranged a rally at India Gate on January 30. More than 30,000 people were there, it was unexpected for Arvind ji but not for me.”
“Though we don’t support pseudo–revolutionaries, but if government will not pass Janlokpal Bill in this parliamentary session, we will turn the Red Fort into Tahrir Square on August 15.”
He is always busy either on his laptop, surfing his IAC homepage or working from his cell phone. He recently received a barrage of phone calls and messages. His wife complains that he is always busy with his work, especially the IAC campaign. She says he finds it difficult to devote time to their 3-month-old baby.
For Shivendra, Facebook is a means to inspire the masses about their country. People from different parts of the world are now supporting his cause.
“Social media is basically a medium which connects the maximum number of youth. If you want the youth in your cause, Facebook and Twitter are the best options for you,” he said.
Shivendra is now planning a revolutionary movement on a larger scale – a “Swaraj” (selfrule) to end corruption at the grassroot level to complete his IAC campaign. He believes there can be no better judge than the common people of India.
Dismissing any praise of his IAC work, he quips, “It’s not mine. It’s a citizen Movement.”