Indian state probing if protesting farmers sabotaged telecom infrastructure
Bhavjit poses on a tractor at the site of a protest against new farm laws at Singhu border near Delhi, India. Reuters
SINGHU, India: In a standoff between farmers from Indias northern breadbasket and the government that has convulsed the country, the farmers have a 21st-century ally: a handful of supporters scattered around the world running a Twitter handle.
The farmers have paralysed some traffic in and out of New Delhi, protesting recent agriculture laws that they fear could eventually eliminate government-guaranteed minimum prices for their crops.
But the demonstrators, many of them from the Sikh religious minority, say they are also battling a social media campaign by the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The BJP brands some of the protesters as separatists from the giant multi-ethnic nation, a charge the demonstrators call disinformation.
Bhavjit Singh became energised for the battle in November from his bedroom in Ludhiana in the agricultural heartland state of Punjab, where he watched with dismay the online attacks on the farmers.
With a few friends, the information technology professional launched the @Tractor2twitr Twitter account in late November. The following month he journeyed to the focal protest site on a main highway connecting Haryana state and Delhi, the territory that includes the capital.
Thousands there have jammed the road for kilometres with tractors, trailers and tents, sleeping in makeshift hovels and cooking in ramshackle kitchens.
Singh, 38, joined the protesters with two smartphones.
We will intensify our campaign because we are getting organised and getting more support now, Singh told Reuters, speaking near the noisy protest site where