A day after Facebook temporarily shut down a page on the ongoing farmers' agitation against the Centre’s new farm laws, the protestors on Monday said social media was crucial for their movement as it allowed them to tell the “truth in their our own words”.
The social media giant had Sunday evening shut down the page of ‘Kisan Ekta Morcha’ that shares “official updates” on the agitation, only to restore it three hours later following social media outrage.
The Kisan Ekta Morcha’s Instagram page was also temporarily suspended.
“Social media plays an important role in our movement. While all kinds of media are writing about us, social media helps us tell our truth in our own words. The ‘godi’ media will never show the reality, but on social media, we can share what is actually happening,” Himmat Singh, a farmer camping at Singhu border, said.
He came to the protest site from Punjab’s Kapurthala four days ago. Before arriving here, he said his main source of information about the agitation was social media.
Himmat said he used to take the help of social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to stay abreast of the various developments of the protest.
The farmer added that ever since he came to the protest site, he has been posting short videos of the agitation on his Facebook page.
He also termed the shutting down of the Facebook page of Kisan Ekta Morcha as an “attempt to silence them”.
“I think it was done by the government. It is not a big deal for them to shut down something they do not like,” the protestor rued.
Facebook had on Sunday said the farmers protest community page was blocked because it violated the virtual platform’s “community standards”. The social media site, however, clarified on Monday that it was an automated action which happened because of “increased activity” on the page.
Three brothers from Punjab’s Gurdaspur said social media was their go-to medium for all kinds of updates on the protest, not just at Singhu border, but also other sites like Tikri and Ghazipur.
“We have been completely dependent on social media for information about the protest, whether it is about what the government is saying or what our leaders have been planning.
“Likewise, we keep watching Youtube to listen to our leaders’ speeches,” Jitender Singh, a class 12 student, said.
His brother Maninder Singh said they have been posting at least 50 stories on Snapchat every day along with putting up a post on Instagram every other day.
“It helps us to let the people of the country and the world know what our protest is about. It is because of social media that so much help is coming in for the farmers,” he said.
The third brother, Pratap Singh, said he had logged into his Twitter account and posted details of the protest after Facebook shut down the farmers’ protest page.
The three brothers have been camping at Singhu border for the past five days.
Another protestor, Jagjit Singh, also underlined the importance of social media in the ongoing agitation by the farmers.
“Everything is on social media only. Who watches television now, and where will we watch TV here?” he asked.
Jagjit, who has been protesting at Singhu border for the last 20 days, said he has subscribed to several pages on both Facebook and YouTube to keep himself updated about the agitation.
“Though I do not post much on these platforms, I regularly surf the social media for new things that may be happening here or at other sites. I know several young men here who keep making short videos about the everyday developments at the protest sites. These are very helpful,” he said.
Thousands of farmers from Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and other states are protesting against the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act.
Enacted in September, the three farm laws have been projected by the central government as major reforms in the agriculture sector that will remove the middlemen and allow farmers to sell anywhere in the country.
However, the protesting farmers have expressed apprehension that the new laws would pave the way for eliminating the safety cushion of Minimum Support Price and do away with the mandi system, leaving them at the mercy of big corporates.