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Nepal: Social Media As A Civic Activism Tool

Categories: South Asia, Nepal, Digital Activism, Protest

Following events in the Middle East and in India, where young people harnessed the power of social media to achieve civic goals, Nepali youngsters concerned about the country's political chaos are eagerly embracing this technology [1].

On Saturday May 7, 2011, hundreds gathered [2] at a public square in Kathmandu demanding that the constitution be drafted by the May 28 deadline. This event was unique to Nepali activism and political scene because social networking site Facebook [3] played vital role in organizing and encouraging the participants.

Human chain by Nepali protesters. Image courtesy Nepal Diary. [4]

Human chain by Nepali protesters. Image courtesy Nepal Diary.

Pradeep Kumar Singh at NepaliBlogger [5] said that this  new approach towards activism and organizing is certainly a path-breaking event for Nepal.

I am not sure how many of you among nine thousands that responded to attend this (Come on Youth, Stand Up!) event on Facebook actually went for this event, but still this was definitely a huge one! Nepali Youths organized a peace rally in Kathmandu, today to pressurize the leaders to give full commitment to the constitution writing process and to aware every youth (sic) to raise voice against every misdeed of the leaders.

NepalUnites [6] organized the protest rally. Unlike traditional brick and mortar groups which function offline through traditional communication medium and have still not integrated social media into their operation, NepalUnites is very active at Facebook,Twitter and YouTube. This has helped them reach youth audience, in Nepal and also among non-resident Nepali communities.

Lex Limbu [7], a full time student who blogs mostly about culture and music, is organizing a similar event in London along with Pradeep Kumar Singh. Under the banner of Nepal Unites London [6], they are organizing a protest meet on May 27 in front of the Nepali Embassy in London.

If you at home wish to take part in this then please don't think twice and just come and attend the event. While you're at it, why not come with some home-made posters and banners with simple slogans and message's urging the government to ‘Act Up’ or ‘No Work, No Pay’.

We love to complain about the situation in Nepal, blame our politicians and the political frame so I hope all those people who actively blame can take a break from blaming from home but join us – to be a bigger force, to unite and send the message back home. At the end, we shall hand over a letter to the embassy.

Image courtesy Nepal Diary. [4]

Image courtesy Nepal Diary.

While these events are getting positive coverage in the Nepali and international mainstream media, some are not amused. At Mysansar [8], a popular Nepali blog, Deepak Aryal compared the youngsters who organized and participated in the rally as “fraudsters”:

आफूमात्र ठीक र राम्रो देख्‍दै सभ्यता, इमान्दारिता वा नैतिकता र सदाचारको ढोंग रचेर हामीहरूले अरूलाई गाली गर्न सक्छौं र गरिरहेका छौं, तर हामीले आफ्नो उत्तरदायित्व कति निभाएका छौं? हामी कति इमान्दार र कति ठीक छौं? त्यो कसले जाँच्ने हो? त्यसको वारेमा कसले फेसबुकमा आन्दोलन गरिदिने हो? माथिल्लो क्लासका मान्छेलाई फेसबुकमा अरूलाई गाली गर्न र सुझाव दिन फुर्सद छैन अनि तल्लो वर्गलाई त्यसमाथिको पहुँच छैन।

We believe that only we are correct and good, and we create illusion of honesty and ethics to bad mouth others; but how many of our responsibilities have we actually fulfilled? How honest and correct are we? Who is going to judge that? Who is going to fight for that at Facebook? The upper class is busy bad mouthing others and doling out advices at Facebook, but the lower class has cannot access it.

Aryal views the Facebook revolt phenomena as part of class wars going on in Nepali society. C K Lal, a prominent columnist, echoed similar sentiments through his column at My Republica [9]. His assertion that the protesting youth somehow mirrored Kathmandu's feared gang members has raised many eyebrows.

It was a motley crowd of about hundred to two hundred youngsters. Most of them were in trendy slacks and t-shirts. One demonstrator had made up his hairs to resemble the famed mane of late-lamented Satya Sai Baba (May his soul rest in peace) and apparently did not believe in shouting slogans. Cheerleaders of the rally appeared to be mostly UML-types: The kind who are protected and patronized by Chakre Milan and Dinesh Adhikari Chari, the Marxist-Leninist strongmen of Kathmandu valley.

Judging the vastly different reaction to the Facebook organized rally, it is clear that a tussle inspired by cold war era views on class war, is underway in Nepal. The dislike that Facebook is receiving from a section of Nepali society is not just antagonism towards technology, it represents deeper dissatisfaction towards the perceived class rift.