2011-12 can be remembered in India as a time when it came close to its own Arab Spring of sorts. With likes of Baba Ramdev and Anna Hazare taking centerstage outside the Indian parliament demanding what was the right of every citizen of this country. What followed as an obvious measure was gagging of free press and media with government going on a damage control overdrive. It was then that few NRIs across the globe decided to take things to an alternate course.
These patriots took to social media in a big way and although it was no match or alternative for the mainstream media, it led to the formation of what was the initial phase of social media activism. The loose network slowly took form of a better organised group and was called ShankhNaad, which literally meant an auspicious beginning for a humane work. ShankhNaad was a pioneer and was running pages on Facebbok of personalities like Rajeev Dixit, Rajeev Malhotra, Baba Ramdev , Dr Subramanian Swamy and many other patriots and Hindu nationalists. In fact ShankhNaad’s Baba Ramdev page was the biggest page dedicated to Him when Babaaji himself was not OFFICIALY present on Social Media. The work was simple – gather news from a reliable source and disseminate it among the subscribers of the pages, discussion forums, twitter feeds and alike. Attention was paid to news which didn’t usually go ‘mainstream’. News feeds run 24/7 so being in different timezones meant there was always someone of the group to process it and send it out in the social web.
This wasn’t always so easy though and required a lot of time and attention on part of every member of the group. The members, dedicated to the cause, took time out of their work and personal lives, skipping a lot of personal engagements so as to keep this wave going. It became a clockwork of sorts where everything else took backseat, the only thing important was information. This ‘work’ grew with time and so did members, and with them the challenges of coordination and direction. Back home in India, it was time for General elections. A big test of everything and everyone. There was a lot to do but distance was turning out to be a big bottleneck.
It was then that Rahul Priyadarshi, a 30 year old IT manager and the founder of the ShankhNaad group, had to quit his job in Britain and leave for India. The objective was to closely coordinate the campaign work on and off the ground, and take their work to a big milestone. The work went as expected and the group run a tremendous campaign during General Elections. May 26th was a milestone for the group when their favourite leader, Narendra Modi became the PM of the country. It was a victory for their efforts, their sacrifices and hard work. But every milestone leads to newer ones. The next goal was to take this momentum and turn it into something useful. While the mainstream media is about news, accuracy and reliability; Social media is more about general sensibilities and public opinion. The group’s aim is to bring accurate information not only about Current Affairs, but also about our glorious past into the public domain. In this endeavor, they have also come out with a website (www.ShankhNaad.net) where information on various fields like culture , history , current affairs can be collated. The aim remains the same : bring the TRUTH out in the public domain. They’re also working on features and documentaries that address human rights concerns in the country. For example, their next project is a documentary on Pakistani minorities who’ve recently taken refuge in India. The documentary titled ‘Life Behind the Line’ is being done in association with Future Bytes Entertainment and is expected to soon.
Meanwhile the group has also suffered some setbacks with a fan page of Dr. Subramanian Swamy, which ShankhNaad used to run and was the biggest social driver on facebook, getting unpublished for reasons best known to Facebook. Dr Subramanian Swamy has been flooded with tweets and personal messages from all over the world ever since the page went offline in December last year. The page had a following of 10.5 million and a reach of 12 million per week. It was a setback to their work and name and the work is underway to restore the page.