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Kracktivism: ‘Bridge the Gap, Bring the Change’

By Kamayani Bali Mahabal aka Kractivist

The social media has not just revolutionized our lives, it has brought the revolution to our doorstep. The social media plays a formative role in strengthening the public sphere through the mediation of political debate and thus expanding the political space. It is the extensive reach of social media, and the possibility of information becoming extremely viral in a short period of time, both of which are not so easily accomplished through offline activism, that makes it a vital catalyst for advocacy and campaigns.   

My Blog [1] is the  platform for engaging with various issues. I coined this term, ‘Kracktivism’ – the activism which bridges the gap between  the virtual and the real world, between online and offline activism.  The information flows from the ground, especially places where the main media will never go or will never cover to online for raising awareness on issues. I  also  create animated videos that give more information about  the campaigns in a concise and visually engaging way [2]. Given the importance of getting more information to more people in a short span of time in order to drum up attention on the cause, relying extensively on multiple channels is essential. 

An example of KracktivismThe ‘Free Binayak Sen’ campaign’s methods might contain lessons for advocacy groups. It combined grassroots activism and social media that brought international pressure. Not only was Dr Sen’s case fought in courts, put forward on college campuses, petitioned to politicians, and amplified through protest marches in Chhattisgarh, the issue was also raised in the British House of Commons, in foreign medical journals, and on American university campuses.

The campaign  ‘Give Binayak Sen bail or give us jail’  went viral with organized protests worldwide [3]. The website and FB page listed locations of potential marches and protests, in addition to websites and email addresses with which visitors could share and seek information.

An online  T-shirt campaign was used on all street protest rallies globally. B Sen T-shirt

An  online calender with poems from all over the world, including in Portuguese, Spanish, Hindi, and English, went viral. Social media provided the space where collective grievances could be aired and became the catalysts for gatherings, hunger strikes, medical camps, musical concerts , cycle rallies, and other forms of “physical” protests in the real world.  The  campaign added more understanding to diffusion of innovations/ideas as the theory relates to social media as well.

Pen is mightier than Sword: Vedanta Example

Can an open letter by an individual have an impact on change? The answer usually will be in the negative. Surprisingly, it is possible, thanks to kracktivism. ‘Creating Happiness,’ was a series of short films  competition about Vedanta, the  UK based Mining  Company  that aired on 37  TV channels. It was launched with a technically slick film that focused on the apparent happiness of Binno, a small girl in Rajasthan, when she discovered that she could get an education from the anganwadis (child day care centres) set up by the company. The company announced an initiative for students at media and film institutes to produce short films about the company that would then be judged  by a heavy-weight jury consisting of   Ad guru Piyush Pandey, actor Gul Panag, and the noted film director, Shyam Benegal who is known for ‘art cinema.’ (Benegal’s early films realistically depicted feudal conditions in rural India).

I penned  an open letter on the Web to film maker Shyam Benegal, who  I  hailed as ‘a voice for the voiceless.’ The letter appealed to him to pull out of the jury of the competition because ‘Vedanta is not creating happiness but it is faking happiness.’ This letter was vedanta-faking-happinessfollowed by a letter to Piyush Pandey and then to the participants of the competition, and one of the participants withdrew entry after the letter.  Following the activist onslaught, Benegal and Panag withdrew from the jury saying they were unaware of Vedanta’s role in the competition. ‘My bad. Just got full details. I wasn’t aware that the competition was part of #Vedanta glorification/PR  Have pulled out’, tweeted Panag.  I created the campaign of Faking Happiness and struck back with our own competition asking for creative content on the topic of ‘Faking Happiness.’ Blog posts, short films, cartoons and spoofs poured in on Facebook and YouTube that charged Vedanta with falsehoods [4] [5].  

Online  Revolution for Freedom: Jammu & Kashmir Example

Kracktivism can also be used very powerfully during conflict situation.  Jammu and Kashmir is one of the most militarized regions in the world having approximately 700,000 security forces stationed there. In 2010, Kashmir protests gained widespread media coverage both in India and internationally. The internet revolution gave a big boost  and visibility to the  Kashmir problem, platforms and networks like  Facebook,  Orkut, and Twitter  enabled activists to quickly gather and disseminate information, produce their own media and organize. The activists used new social media tools to disseminate videos and information, share ideas and build up their movement. Though formal internet access is still limited in Kashmir, most people use their mobile phones to access sites like Facebook and twitter. The Indian media now seems to have woken up to the ill-treatment of Kashmiris at the hands of the security forces. And this has led to the focus being more on the grievances of the Kashmiris, rather than anything else.

Free Waqar Campaign[6], one such campaign for the freedom of  a Kashmiri youth,  was first-of-its kind online movement which took the internet world by storm. Operated solely online, the campaign was strategized online through social media like Facebook and Twitter (#FreeWaqar), pushed forward through petition sites asking Amnesty international and Human Rights Watch to intervene.  In Waqar’s case, the online battle was fought using all forms of art. For example, I made a two minute animation ‘Faking Democracy-Free Waqar Now’. Amnesty International gave  its stamp by recognizing it as an instance of rampant police and state repression in Kashmir. Finally, Waqar was released. 

 Justice in the case of  gender insensitive Justice Bhaktavatsala

Karnataka High Court Judge, K Bhaktavatsala, told a young woman lawyer that she was unfit to argue the matter since she was unmarried. ‘Family matters should be argued only by married people, not spinsters. You should only watch. Bachelors and spinsters watching family court proceedings will start thinking if there is any need to marry at all. Marriage is not like a public transport system. You better get married and you will get very good experience to argue such cases,’ he advised her.

In another case  between a separated couple, in which the woman accused her husband of regularly beating her, the judge told the woman, ‘Women suffer in all marriages. You are married with two children, and know what it means to suffer as a woman. Yesterday, there was a techie couple who reconciled for the sake of their child. Your husband is doing good business, he will take care of you. Why are you still talking about his beatings?’ He then pointed towards the lady judge — Justice B S Indrakala — sitting next to him, suggesting to the lawyer, ‘I know you have undergone pain. But that is nothing in front of what you undergo as a woman. I have not undergone such pain. But madam (Justice Indrakala) has.’

I created a facebook page [7] and  an online petition [8] , few go animate videos [9] which   went viral and  the issue was reported in Headlines Today.  There was a prime debate on the issue, too, wherein even the Minister of Law responded to the issue and within two days , we got the desired result.  All family court matters, including child custody and guardianship, were taken away from him.

Just two days back, I did an expose on Loksatta Party candidates [10] and within 24 hours, one candidate was asked to withdraw nomination and two others reprimanded [11].

I don’t believe in slacktivism , arm chair activism, or clicktivism  and I hate the terms/labels. Things such as signing petitions online should be looked at not in isolation but together with the other strategies being used to raise awareness, for every campaign needs a multi-pronged approach. Technological advances have enabled easy documentation of human rights violations, government negligence, or police violence, which can be very quickly shared to a vast online community, where it’s hard to stop it from spreading. The difference  between the existence and absence of social media  and new technologies however is not equivalent to the lack of  motivation for change or the lack of consciousness that the  system in place is inadequate or somehow producing injustice. Rather, the existence of social media and its wide accessibility can result in a faster rate of public demands met or at the very least a greater awareness by a wider range of people.

And yet, the use of social media for political mobilization is by no means a foolproof tactic, nor is technology a guarantor of  change. For me, the  new technologies, particularly social media, are both a catalyst for democratic reform  as well as an instrument to aid more traditional methods of protest and civil resistance. While online activism isn’t the be-all-and-end-all solution, the sheer potential of social media to reach a wider audience is unmatched. This reach, combined with the platform provided by social media to critically engage with and discuss the issues at hand, makes it a very powerful medium to espouse a cause.

[Kamayani Bali Mahabal is a feminist and human rights activist.  She also pitches for gender equality, health rights, women’s rights, and other issues of social justice. She is an expert  in Gender, Health, Human Rights and Social Media.]


[1] kractivist.wordpress.com

[2] http://goanimate.com/user/0A93x3C4Ukag

[3] We are all Binayak Sen, We will all go to Prison! Global protests, documented and uploaded on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mcKKP49JNpE; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sE-HEKM3J40; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AMKtgDSDVlI

[4] [5] http://kractivist.wordpress.com/faking-happiness-competition/

 [6] Waqar a 22-year-old commerce student was captured by the Jammu and Kashmir Police on 4 October, 2011, after they raided his house in downtown Srinagar and slapped him with the notorious Public Safety Act, 1978 (PSA) on charges that include participating in protests against government forces “for three years”.

[7] https://www.facebook.com/mcpjudge

[8] http://www.change.org/en-IN/petitions/remove-justice-bhaktavatsala-karnataka

[9]http://goanimate.com/videos/0gOuGitXjGxc?utm_source=linkshare,http://goanimate.com/videos/0s-OFtVb013U?utm_source=linkshare, http://goanimate.com/videos/0194ho6aWlBQ?utm_source=linkshare

[10]http://kractivist.wordpress.com/2013/04/20/expose-loksatta-party-anti-women-anti-scst-shaking-hands-with-hindutva-forces-vaw/

[11] http://kractivist.wordpress.com/2013/04/21/with-anti-reservation-anti-women-comments-candidates-embarrass-loksatta-kractivism-impact/

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