Triumphant arrival of Social Media in Kerala
Triumphant arrival of Social Media in Kerala

Triumphant arrival of Social Media in Kerala

Hari S Kartha

Whether one likes it or not, social media has started setting the agenda in Kerala too. Given the state's high level of political consciousness and cyber literacy, there is little surprise that the cyber media has succeeded in moulding public opinion in this part of the country. On the flip side, what is surprising is why it took so long for the social media to assert itself. The reason is not that far to seek. It could only be attributed to party consciousness and party commitment having an edge over wider political consciousness. The colour of the flag matters much more in Kerala than in the rest of the country. Now that the apolitical social media has started asserting itself, it tends to suggest that the days of party consciousness are slowly but steadily becoming a thing of the past here. This is the message that the unexpected and abrupt triumph of the 770 day old struggle for justice by young Sreejith conveys quite conspicuously and convincingly.

Sreejith's satyagraha in typical Gandhian style is more than two years old. Nobody took note of the young boy lying in front of the state government secretariat building day and night, rain or shine. Passersby never took the indefinite satyagraha seriously. Police never thought it necessary either to drive the boy away or take him into custody. The Special Branch found it too silly to be reported to higher ups. Political parties and youth organisations led by them were too busy with their own agitations in front of the secretariat to bother about Sreejith's satyagraha. To many, it was nothing but a 'tamasha'. But though unhonoured, unwept and unsung, Sreejith did not give up. He was in no mood to relent until and unless his demand for a CBI enquiry into the death of his brother Sreejeev in police custody was ordered by the authorities concerned.

Everything took a dramatic turn all on a sudden. Youngsters, one fine evening, irrespective of political or ideological differences flocked to Sreejith declaring solidarity. The process was quite simple. There was no political or social leader behind the crowd of youngsters that gathered. No party had given any call. There were no flags and no political slogans. But it was too stark and strong to be ignored by politicians or parties. Soon there was a beeline of political leaders in front of Sreejith. First came BJP state president Kummanam Rajasekharan, followed by opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala, former KPCC president V.M.Sudheeran and so many other political veterans of different hues. State leadership of the central ruling party took up the matter in all seriousness with their bosses in Delhi. Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, himself was approached for intervention by both BJP and Congress. P.K.Krishnadas, former BJP state president personally called on Singh and pressed for CBI enquiry into Sreejeev's death. Besides, Congress MPs K.C.Venugopal and Shashi Tharoor met Jeetendra Singh, Minister at PMO seeking justice for the young satyagrahi. Crowning it all, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan invited Sreejeev and his mother to the former's office in the secretariat for discussions. Pinarayi Vijayan, better late than never, offered all support for the cause for which Sreejith had been fighting.

Within a couple of days came the decision. The CBI was directed by the Centre to probe the custody death of Sreejeev. Like the mountain going to Mohammed, Chief Minister's political adviser E.P.Jayarajan walked down from the secretariat, accompanied by a couple of officers and local CPM leaders to personally convey to Sreejith still lying in front of the secretariat building, the decision for a CBI enquiry. The formal order was shown to Sreejith with a request to call off the satyagraha. But surprisingly, Sreejith was in no hurry to call it a day and go home. On the contrary he was firm that the strike would be called off only when the CBI started their enquiry.

The whole credit of getting everybody's focus shifted to Sreejith and his satyagraha entirely goes to one or two Facebook groups. This was perhaps the first experiment of youth potential being harnessed by social media in Kerala. As Sreejith's struggle for justice snowballed into a major incident thanks to the Facebook groups, the conventional mainstream media, both print and visual could only apologetically follow what the new media subtly dictated. But then there is a question being raised amid all these - is Kerala's young generation proving to be apolitical or are they liberating themselves from the yoke of party politics? It is indeed a million dollar question which may take some time more to be answered.