Farmers are not only fighting against the Central farm laws on the ground, but in the virtual world as well and that too with equal success. They are using social media tools quite efficiently and have been able to neutralise attempts made online to defame them and their protest.
“A majority of famers are illiterate, but we have trained them to go live, press like and share buttons on Facebook. We have 1.13 lakh followers on our FB page, of which 65,000 were added during the agitation. Whenever anyone tries to defame us, we post our message in our organisations’ WhatsApp group and farmers start going live. Within minutes, the message reaches all,” said Parminder Singh, who runs the Facebook page of the Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan).
Like other organisations, the BKU (Ugrahan) has also set up a special social media team. Whenever there is a negative campaign against protesting farmers, the response goes viral from individual handles of farmers on Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp groups. Farmers also go live to counter the narrative. This all is done without a laptop, but smart phones.
“We are using Facebook and WhatsApp for the first time. We keep checking the updates even while we are listening to speeches of our leaders,” said Harjeet Singh, a farmer from Tikri border, over the phone.
Farm organisations have created district- and state-level WhatsApp groups and Facebook pages where they constantly upload speeches of their leaders, news clippings and stories running on TV channels.
“Whenever attempts are made to deride our agitation, the online reaction of farmers crushes such nefarious designs. Lakhs of farmers here and in Punjab are ready to give such more befitting replies,” says Manjit Gharachon, a leader of BKU Ugrahan from the Tikri border.
Many more farmers are fast learning online skills. “I have learnt to use WhatsApp and YouTube and am now learning to use Facebook. It’s a great way to spread the word around make yourself heard,” says Niranjan Singh Dohla, state secretary, BKU (Rajewal) from the New Delhi border.