GUWAHATI, Aug 16 � The power of social networking on the Internet has come of age in Guwahati. Today�s protest action in the city favouring the Jan Lokpal Bill and against Anna Hazare�s arrest, in which a large number of people took part, could happen to a large extent by use of social networking sites like Facebook.
Even as the protests were taking place, participants and their supporters were getting online to provide the first person accounts. On Facebook, several dozen people, mostly from Guwahati, were asking people to join in the protests. Others were posting messages in support of Anna Hazare and his crusade favouring a robust Lokpal Bill.
A young professional, Gayatri Sarmah described Hazare�s arrest as an attack on democracy and said it was against the Fundamental Rights. Some wrote epitaphs about freedom of expression in the country, while others came out with funny one-liners. The common ground was an empathy with the cause espoused by Hazare and his team in New Delhi.
People continued to voice their sentiments even when protests were going on and in a tense atmosphere one of them offered an update: �About 50 people both men and women are under police custody while protesting for Anna�s Jan Lokpal Bill� Let�s get out of our houses and join hands and make this movement a grand success.� The lady doctor, who posted this, was arrested soon thereafter.
The anger and the resentment were evident from some of the posts that mocked the Union Government and the police action both in New Delhi and Guwahati. Dictatorial, totalitarian, ruthless, abuse of power, were some of the words that circulated through the posts when it came to describe the official response.
The protests organised today also had their roots in extensive use of Facebook and Short Messaging Service. Messages, sent in the last few days, exhorted people to unite against corruption and favoured various means to voice their dissent against the government. Some people found novel ways to convey their support for Hazare. RK Agarwala, a city resident, posted, �all the residents of Sreenagar, Bylane - 1 observed complete blackout from 8 to 9 pm on August 15 in support of Jan Lokpal Bill�.
Incidentally, it was not just words which were circulating in virtual space. Some of the tech-savvy protesters also uploaded photos of the protests and the subsequent police response from digital cameras enabling others to see what actually was taking place.