When he came to India from Australia’s Sydney in October for some personal work, taking a break from his job in the IT industry there, Bhavjit Singh had no plans to overstay.
But the IT professional from Punjab’s Ludhiana finds himself in Delhi in the month of December, running a Twitter campaign to take on those spreading “fake news and running vilification campaigns” against the ongoing farmers’ protest.
The farmers’ protest at multiple entry points to the national capital began on November 26, driven mainly by the food-growers from Punjab and Haryana.
“I had come to India in October-end to attend to some personal work, but then this (farmers’ protest) happened and I stayed on,” Bhavjit Singh says.
He said his idea was to disseminate authentic information about the protest as a “lot of people have been tweeting, running a vilification campaign against the movement”.
His friend and a volunteer, Jaspreet Singh, says, “Paid and motivated users dominate and encroach up on the Twitter space. Our campaign is an effort to counter them.”
“Farmers don’t know how to operate Twitter. We wanted to connect them to it. We don’t have an IT cell, all tweets are ‘organic’,” he says.
Also, when the international media want to know what is happening in India, they don’t go to Facebook or WhatsApp, they logon to Twitter to see what is trending, Bhavjit Singh adds.
“When the anti-farmer campaign was at its peak, we thought it was time that the farmers moved from tractor to Twitter. The name of the handle tractor2twtr just came out from nowhere,” he says.
Bhavjit Singh says the Twitter handle is being operated by volunteers from all across the globe. “Everybody is an administrator.”
The posts from the handle receive more than one lakh retweets daily on an average, he claims.
“We have consolidated our power, our presence on Twitter. Now, we are giving those running a vilification campaign a tough fight,” he says.
Farmers, especially from Punjab and Haryana, have been protesting at Delhi borders against the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020; the Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act 2020.
They are on a day-long fast on Monday even as the agitation spread to different parts of the country with peasant unions staging demonstrations at district headquarters.
Enacted in September, the three farm laws have been projected by the central government as major reforms in the agriculture sector that will remove the middlemen and allow farmers to sell anywhere in the country.
However, the protesting farmers have expressed apprehension that the new laws would pave the way for eliminating the safety cushion of Minimum Support Price and do away with the mandis, leaving them at the mercy of big corporates.