Political Use of Social Media
Prompt: Describe a group of people that is or was disenfranchised. Elaborate on how they did, are, or could use social media. Describe two possible outcomes from any pressure campaign by your group
Naxalites or Naxalvadis are terms that are commonly used in reference to the Communist guerrilla group in India mostly associated with the Communist Party of India (CPI), which is supportive of the Maoist political sentiment and ideology. Their origins can be traced to the Naxalbari village in West Bengal where a peaceful uprising of laborers was organized by the fragment of the CPI that were more radical in their political thoughts. While the movement first began in the heart of West Bengal, they have spread to the less developed of rural central and eastern states of India such as the Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh by creating an efficient underground political network.
This group claims to represent the most oppressed people in India who have been left untouched by India’s development and ignored during the electoral process. They mostly consist of the tribal people (Adivasis), people who have been historically considered outcasts (Dalits), landless farmers and laborers. Although Indian by nationality, they are financially unstable, deprived of most basic amenities and infrastructure, and politically underrepresented. In the beginning, they used to protest asking for equal rights and representation through peaceful methods, but over time have become a major domestic threat to India and a threat towards the Indian democratic system. This nature is best described in the Logic of Political Survival where Naxalites are a part of ‘Residents’, but not a part of the ‘Selectorate’ that enjoy benefits of being a part of the willing coalition.
In their initial phase of existence, Naxalites were fighting for a proper redistribution of agricultural lands in protest of the Permanent Settlement Revenue System (PSRS) introduced by the British during their rule over India before the independence. Under the PSRS, all the land and its produce were under the control of the rich and elite landlords for generations, who were part of the winning coalition. The Central Government of India had passed a law to implement appointment of tribal committees by the state government. However, only a small number of states implemented for a revision of the policies. The oppressed and landless farmers and laborers working under minimum wage felt abandoned and cheated by the government that favored the Selectorate and not all Residents of the polity.
The criticism against the Naxalites is that despite their communist ideology, they have become another terrorist outfit that has been exploiting money from the middle-level landowners and the people who are part of their group while dominating their lives who they claim to represent the best interest of in the name of providing justice. Logic of Political Survival would further emphasize that leaders of the Naxalite movement need the support of a small group of people to stay in power, as it is easier to buy their loyalty instead of distributing small gains broadly and facing the risk of being overthrown. In Marginalization and Violence: The Story of Naxalism, Priyanka Vora and Siddhant Buxy highlight that “ignoring the socioeconomic ends” led to the rise of a Naxal movement. This Naxal movement turned violent over time in a fight for needs and necessities while the government have constantly maintained their defensive stance that considered these people as a security threat to the Indian democratic system.
In older days, Naxalites relied heavily on print media to propagate their ideology and recruit new members to fight for their cause. Today, they have adopted modern approach of using technology and the Internet as a tool to get attention of the educated youth and urban population to propagate their concerns and ideology, as well as attract donors for funding of their operations.
Naxalites has been using Facebook as an active tool for the propagation of their ideologies. The Times of India newspaper in their article Maoist use social media to reach urban areas state that as per a report, “[Naxalites] have managed to cross over 300 followers” with their Facebook page. This is an important observation as it goes on to show that Naxalites have started using the Internet as a medium of propagation. This is quite worrisome as they now have access to a user base of over 400 million Internet users in India, which accounts for about 35% of the Indian population. The number of followers on their Facebook also shows their acceptance within the online community, calling attention on the Naxalites sympathizers. In addition, they also maintain several online forums and communities such as the “Naxal Community, Naxalbari Hamiz and Naxal”, as a means of communication to keep in touch with other Naxalites in different states, as well as recruit members fighting for their cause.
It is no news that Naxalites have been using social media to add efficiency and effectiveness of their campaign. However, there are several other tools that Naxalites can use to communicate and coordinate better in an orderly fashion. Through the use of encrypted instant messaging apps such as Skype or Whatsapp, they can securely communicate with their fellow comrades regarding their plans and strategies for the battlefield without being easily tracked. These web-based apps prevent the government to eavesdrop on their conversations, allowing for a much safer means of communication and increasing coordination amongst these fragmented groups. Additionally, the unencrypted online forums and boards they currently use is unsafe, and moving to secure forum boards will help these people discuss and plan many aspects of their operations securely.
Alternatively, the Naxalites could also use digital marketing strategy to sow fear amongst the people, something similar to the ISIS terrorist group. ISIS used provocative twitter hashtag campaign (#AllEyesOnISIS) to give an air of inevitability to the looming destruction and atrocities as they marched into the Iraqi city of Mosul [Wired]. Through the use of particular hashtags, Naxalites can also gain the attention of the Twitterverse, providing then a centralized and organized platform for anyone who wants to view their content. Since the beginning of their movement, ISIS has been creating high-quality jihadist videos that consist of sensational contents in coordination with proper sounds and visual effects. Naxalites, in a similar fashion, can use similar provocative, choreographed videos to create a way of intimidation and fear amongst the general audience.
It is important for Naxalites to create their content in the English language to grab the attention of the urban and educated population. English is considered to be the lingua franca and specifically targets the young and educated people, who are the driving force of any powerful movement. Through their content in English language, Naxalites can also gain a bigger audience that may include foreign news portals that may start observing their actions.
Naxalites’ violent approach has not been efficient in their struggle to be heard. They use of social media can ultimately be a turning ground for them to create a more organized and coordinated movement to reach their goals.
“Marginalization and Violence: The Story of Naxalism in India.” Priyanka Vora and Siddhant Buxy. Open Access. ProQuest. Web. 23 Feb. 2017.
“Maoists use Social Media to Reach Urban Areas.” The Times of India. Kashmir Monitor.Jun 22 2013. ProQuest. Web. 23 Feb. 2017 .
“Why ISIS is Winning Social Media War.” The Wired. March 2016 https://www.wired.com/2016/03/isis-winning-social-media-war-heres-beat/
“Logic of Political Survivor”