While social media is a new form of weaponry as it can make or break the nation. We must also know the flip side to the invention of social media. It is true that social media can be mentally draining, addictive, almost frightening. However, I am not here to speak of how Social Media has drained us all because it certainly has but what if for one second we think of all those times when it ignited a spark in us. Before the advent of Social Media, people did not have an ounce of chance to form a community and speak up for themselves but now they do. Are we making the most of these platforms? Are we using it correctly? How does this become more relevant during the Pandemic?
Voicing the Marginalised:
How many of us were taken by surprise when we came across the Hathras incident? I am absolutely sure that more than 90 percent of us were not surprised because according to the statistics by National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), more than 91 rapes occur daily. It is definitely more shocking when you observe the numbers. If you follow up with assault and rape statistics closely, you will know that one rape is committed every 15 minutes. This data is taken from the 2018 annual report. It is disheartening to see that things have taken a downslope. As per 2019, there has been a 7% rise in crime against women. When we speak of these statistics, they are reported cases. We don't know how many go unreported. In 2018, 2,957 Dalit women were being raped across the country. 871 of these were minors. If we put this in simpler terms, 8 Dalit women are being raped every day across India. According to NCRB, Uttar Pradesh has the maximum amount of "reported" victims. The number as of 2018 was 526. After Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan holds the second position with a count of 385 victims, followed with Maharashtra with 313 victims, and Haryana with 171 victims. These numbers are just numbers, until we do something about them. Every single day when we open up the newspaper or watch the headlines on our television, there will be one or two odd cases about a woman being sexually assaulted. The fact that these cases have caught up with redundancy shouldn't normalise the facts as in "oh, it happened again", and flip the channel to something else. Instead, this very redundancy should be scaring us to death. This is why Social Media Activism is so important. We have interactive platforms where every consumer is also a producer and we should be using this to our advantage. With the Hathras and Balrampur cases, they caught up with the redundancy in a general spectrum. However, as a caste issue spectrum, this is not redundancy. Reporting of Dalit rapes started off very late. I am not nullifying rapes that happen in the general scenario. However, we need to address this issue in intersection with caste and gender oppression. It is our duty to help them voice themselves. It is our duty to be able to reach out to them through different mediums. In the era of digitisation, I believe, we must provide them a platform through social media activism and do it the right way. If we can marry the truth with activism, we will definitely be looking at rigorous transformation for the good.
What is Intersectional Feminism?
“We tend to talk about race inequality as separate from inequality based on gender, class, sexuality or immigrant status. What’s often missing is how some people are subject to all of these, and the experience is not just the sum of its parts,” said by Kimberle Crenshaw who coined the term 'intersectionality' in the year 1989. She talks about how we must include all the overlapping social inequalities in the mainstream arena. There shouldn't be a privileged dominance of one singular issue. The photo-series collage that you see above, is a small scale initiative to take a step towards intersectional feminism. This initiative hash-tagged #justiceformalvika #hathrasgangrape #balrampurcase was started out by Simran Khandelwal and it is still running. She asked a few people, both men and women, to post stories of themselves with a placard that would include a phrase of their choice and further nominate five more people for the thread to gain momentum. The thread is definitely going strong and many people have most-willingly participated to spread the word to their families and friends.
"As mainstream media is busy covering other sensationalised news, they have somehow forgotten to give the same amount of coverage to the Hathras and Balrampur cases. This is where social media steps in. Social media activism is important as it highlights the issues that the mainstream media doesn’t. At least now people are aware of what’s happening in Hathras and Balrampur and are putting forth their opinions on it via social media. And most importantly, social media is platform for the oppressed to voice their opinion and fight for what’s right," Simran said.
A participant, Jayati Chandra, who was a part of #justiceformalvika initiative said "With a nation who’s mainstream news media is focused solely on soap opera style dramas for boosted TRPs and such little press freedom, social media awareness and activism plays a crucial role in making people aware of the other sides of the story and brings stories from the less fortunate and oppressed individuals who’s voices would otherwise go unheard. It provides a platform for individuals of all age groups to actually read, determine their opinion and have real debates on the nation’s more pressing issues such as the horrific rapes occurring in the state of Uttar Pradesh and the deliberate silence over the issues in the mainstream media"
Call for Urgency- Social Media Activism During the Pandemic:
Social media is a double edged weapon. It could be a source of information or misinformation. It is a risky tool to deal with especially with cases that involve assaults, rapes and murders. However, we are living in a difficult situation and in such outrageous circumstances wherein physical platforms are further demolished, we "have" to step up because the cry for help is a scream that is resounding through the walls of this country. This is a call for urgency and we have to step up for each one of us. We must include Dalit women's voices into the larger spectrum of issues. It will be an enormous achievement, if this article empowers even one Dalit Woman across the country to step up for herself and/or the others. If we have the power to gift the marginalised with some of our power, then why shouldn't we? Social Media might be an exhausting platform for many of us, but let us use it right for once even it means to start out small with the posting of a single picture. It does mean a lot. It is more petrol to our power.
I will close this article with a quote by the famous, Sheryl Sandberg. She is the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, an activist and an author.
"I learned the power of the word 'we'. Not saying to people, 'You are going to get through this' but 'We are going to get through this.' That is such a different message, because it makes people feel less alone, and all of these forms of hardship, it's not just the hardship itself but the isolation that comes with it. 'We' changes that." - Sheryl Sandberg