Red terror, fake trends and cracked heels: How social media covered farmers' long march in Maharashtra

DailyBiteMar 12, 2018 | 18:26

Red terror, fake trends and cracked heels: How social media covered farmers' long march in Maharashtra

A stream of red on the streets of Mumbai has been the cause of much debate and discussion on social media. On March 6, more than 35,000 farmers from across Maharashtra, led by All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) - the peasants front of the Communist Party of India (CPI) - began their 180-km-long march from Nashik to Mumbai. Late on the night of March 11, they entered the state capital.

But why are the farmers out on the street? Among other things, they want complete farm loan waiver, implementation of the recommendations of the MS Swaminathan Commission, providing forest rights and better compensation for land acquired by the government.

Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis, as per a Hindustan Times report, held a high-level meeting to discuss the demands on March 11, where he said: “We are positive on the demands of the farmers. We have set up a six-member cabinet committee to discuss their demands.” The BJP CM (as is the whole party), after all, is under the spotlight, with the farmer’s march receiving vociferous support from the Shiv Sena, Congress, NCP, Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena and AAP.

farmer_031218014906.jpgPhoto: Reuters

But as is the case with all issues in this day and age, it is not always the actual action, rather the perception on social media that makes a difference. Fadnavis may or may not be making headway with the farmers, but there are those who are already keen of making the BJP look good in this situation. Alt-News founder Pratik Sinha reported about a 22-page document that provides instructions to trend the hashtag “KisanThanksDevendra” on Twitter. He added that this document has been making the rounds on pro-BJP WhatsApp groups.

In a similar vein, there were those who tried to change the narrative of the movement itself. That it was a march organised by the Left (AIKS), many criticised it on the grounds that it was a politically jacked affair - and not actually meant to benefit farmers - organised only to attack the right-wing government. While BJP MP Poonam Mahajan told CNN News18 that the farmers' protest is being propelled by urban Maoists; filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri, a known right-wing commentator, called it “Red terror”.

Of course, there were those who were quick to point out that a political party organising a farmers’ protest is far from uncommon, and the Left parties doing so is even less so. Farmer uprisings in several states have been part of communist movements historically.

There were also those on social media who pointed out the difference between movements in the Left and the Right.

farmer-2_031218014922.jpgPhoto: Reuters

Not everyone, however, was concerned with the movement’s political leaning. There were those who chose to analyse why a movement as big as this has not dominated the newsroom.

farmer-3_031218014936.jpgPhoto: Reuters

And finally there were those interested in the ones walking. Stories of several farmers dominated social media, among tales of how the city of Mumbai welcomed them.

Last updated: March 12, 2018 | 18:26
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