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My Blog Leaked Out Silent Blood

It was a cold December 2009, and I had reached Dantewada district, in the state of Chhattisgarh in central India. Along with a colleague, I had ventured into the epicentre of the bloody tug of war between the government's armed forces and the Maoists, in the race for natural resources to be grabbed from adivasis (tribals) by mining giants. While the mainstream media had only been sporadically reporting about casualties from either camps, I had heard of the arson, deaths and rapes taking place in several adivasi villages. These incidents of 'collateral damage' had been ignored by the mainstream media.

Every night of that chilly winter in Dantewada, I began to type out furiously into my blog (www.priyanka-borpujari.blogspot.com). I wrote about the girl who was gang-raped by the local militia but was not told to keep mum, lest her entire clan and village would be wiped out. I wrote about a cock fight during a weekly market, which was the perfect metaphor in the way the government was pitting a gory battle between the poor – the armed militia comprising malnourished teens, and the armed Maoists who only sought revenge. I wrote and shared on my blog the video interview of the senior-most police official in that district, who lied on camera about the sudden disappearance of an injured adivasi lady who had been prime eye-witness to a massacre of 11 people by the government's forces. Every night, I blogged and shared my posts with 500 email IDs.

Google Analytics showed an upward curve for my blog traffic. Suddenly, I realised my phone was being tapped. One morning, men from the Electricity Board arrived at the ashram where we were camped, and disconnected us from the world. Finally, I began to receive calls from my friends in the city – who had been reading my blogs – who said that they could no more access my blog.

That same evening, cops attacked us on charges of being intruders in the area, and for misbehaving with local journalists. My colleague and I were beaten; my camera was snatched by two burly lady constables. It was a long night of terror, between the police station, and several phone calls to activists and lawyers. The next day, a local newspaper screamed that we had been charged for dacoity. On the other hand, to save ourselves, we filed a case of attempt to murder – the previous day, about 200 local men had suddenly assembled to pelt stones at us. Eventually, the police begged us to leave the state.

Today, almost everyone in India knows that the colour of once-green Dantewada is now red. My blog posts woke up the country to a hushed civil war. The success of my blog lies in the irony that the blog was blocked and I was attacked. This is the power of Web 2.0 – it was the conduit to fulfill my duty as an independent journalist who had no support of a corporate-led mainstream media. I only had blessings, and the Internet.

Comments

aimeeknight's picture

Hi Priyanka! Thank you for

Hi Priyanka!

Thank you for sharing your amazing story. You immediately grabbed my attention as a reader with your title and then held it with so many details. Great work!
I’m interested to learn more, how will Web 2.0 empower you? I look forward to hearing more from you. Keep writing!

"One shoe can change a life" ~ Cinderella

nargiz's picture

Priyanka, I very much enjoyed

Priyanka,

I very much enjoyed reading your incredible story - as well as your blog. Thank you for sharing your experience of social media so articulately. Like Aimee, I would love to hear more about how Web 2.0 will help the women's empowerment movement.

Priyanka Borpujari's picture

Glad you liked this! :-)

Hello Aimee and Nargiz,

Thanks so much for stopping by to read my experiences about a hidden civil war in my country India. Yes, this has also been a wonderful journey in understanding the power of the Internet.

Thanks to the Internet and now the easy access to it from almost anywhere (I am replying this to you from a remote village in Western India, and the connection is thanks to solar power that keeps alive the phone and thus the broadband connection, although it is very slow). Thanks to the Internet, I have the possibility of furthering my work as an independent writer and journalist, to go to such places that 'fools venture where angels dread' :-) I have been doing so for some time now, and it has clearly been a tiny but a significant voice. When I was blogging about the massive oppression sponsored by a leading steel company on the people of Orissa, it gave me the chance to tell people that this particular company is not really so very humanitarian, as it tries to portray of itself. This support to the grassroots movement with my words and quick info dissemination has given the movements strength to further their fight against imperialism. It has given me the satisfaction that in doing this work, and using Web 2.0 to the hilt, I am being responsible towards my freedom, my education, my access to facilities, and my comfortable life. I want to give people hope, because that is what we all need. And Internet gives me that hope, when everything else needs a sponsor or lots of money or lots of protocol.

Thanks so much for reading again. Would love to hear your comments, as well as be eager to respond to any more queries that you might have.

Love,
priyanka

Priyanka Borpujari

IWMF Elizabeth Neuffer Fellow 2012-2013
Blog: www.priyanka-borpujari.blogspot.com

Priyanka Borpujari's picture

..and some more...

Responding to Nargiz's query on how I envisage Web 2.0 to aid women's empowerment movement, I will give you a simple anecdote from one of my journeys: I was talking to a young tribal girl about my age (26-years-old is my age). I think she had just managed to complete college with the help of some activists. She is working towards ensuring that the forest cover where she lives is protected. I asked her how did she go about doing so, and she said that she was maintaining nurseries of indigenous plants which were on their way to extinction. To me it seemed like a futile thing to do, when mass awareness campaigns were needed to safeguard the forests.

But then she began to tell me about the teak plants whose branches were being chopped off and burnt into the fields by the farmers, in the blind hope that it would provide potash to their fields. And then she said this: "If you check Google Maps or Google Earth in the summer months, you will realise the extent to which the branches are cut. If you check Google Maps now, it will give you a different picture because it is monsoon and hence it is no more the season of supplying potash through burning branches."

I was shocked, and then amazed, Here was a girl whom I had decided was not significant for to speak to during a three-hour bus ride, and she just explained to me the context of farming and deforestation in her tribal areas, through "my" modern tools! For one, I am sure this would have been the best way for her to single-handedly and brilliantly explain deforestation in her region to someone who wouldn't know anything about her region. I was sure she would not have continuous electricity in her home, and that her mother still works on the fields. Yet, she had empowered herself to talk about her work and the essence of her Geography, with learnings from the Internet. This, to me, is one of the best examples wherein her hunger to know more and understand better and use new tools gave me the hope in the need to empower women.

Priyanka Borpujari

IWMF Elizabeth Neuffer Fellow 2012-2013
Blog: www.priyanka-borpujari.blogspot.com

rozjean's picture

The Power of Blogging

Dear Priyanka,
Your story is a strong example of the power of blogging. You are a courageous voice of the "collateral damage" that occurs in so many conflicts throughout the world and is rarely reported in the mainstream media. Although you did not directly comment in your story about how the Web 2.0 could empower women, the implication was certainly there.
The anecdote you describe in your response to Nargiz's query is a vivid example of how much the Internet can have a positive influence on the lives of women throughout the world.
Warm wishes,
rozjean

p.s.
Keep on blogging!

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