Monday, 11 April 2011

Citizen's Movements or Social Networking Hype?

It is with a mixture of buoyancy and trepidation that I read the news and opinion pieces about the Anna Hazare-led "citizen's movement" in the Indian online press. I should add here that being in the diaspora and without the constant humming of the 24/7 Indian news channels, it was my friends' Facebook and Twitter updates that first broke the news to me. And it seemed that a whole swathe of previously politically apathetic citizens, possibly feeling symbolically uplifted in the wake of India's Cricket World Cup win, were taking to the movement in full gusto. I am not trying to question what might be perfectly legitimate intentions here, but wondering if it was merely a case of a social networking viral cause that would be un-cool to stay out of?

The fast unto death has been called off, and Hazare duly thanked both the media and the nation's youth for their unprecedented and valiant support. The government's decision to undertake the demanded changes to the Jan Lokpal Bill undoubtedly bodes well for the cause of fighting corruption, yet this fight, unlike a cricket match, does not have a neat beginning, middle and end. Moreover, we can never be sure that the media will not move on to a better story, with more graphic images and more potential for revenue-generating SMSs once the centre of this storm has passed. The urban youth of India may still be rallying, in true Rang De Basanti fashion, but I wonder if their rural counterparts can relate or empathise. Let's hope citizen's movements are both long-lived and more inclusive.