Cyberspace: Will it Work for Bringing Zo Revolution?

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Cyberspace: Will it Work for Bringing Zo Revolution? ~By Roluahpuia
“Every tool is a weapon if you hold it right” Ani DiFranco

RoluahpuiaThe Gutenburg Revolution has helped the people across the world in sharing information as well as transferring of information more rapidly than in the past. Human civilizations, in fact have continued to reap and enjoy the fruits of its revolution till today, both positively and negatively. It has played a key role in the development of the Renaissance, Reformation, the Age of Enlightenment and the Scientific Revolution and has laid the material basis for the modern knowledge economy and the spread of learning to the masses . It has paved the way for an upward or a higher level of revolution which is the Revolution in the Information Technology (IT) sector. Both these revolutions’s has marked a fundamental shift in the history of mankind and has continued to act as a harbinger of change in human society.  

The invention of the printing press allows the diffusion of knowledge and information by increasing the speed and breadth of scholarly communication by speeding up the rate at which knowledge was created. This was made easier particularly from the early 80s with the creation of the internet and particularly the advent of the World Wide Web (WWW). From then onwards, a new model of information sharing emerged which came to known as ‘Cyberspace’ which later came to be termed in the public discourse as “Cyberspace Model” where communication is done electronically via the internet. However, it is beyond the limit of this paper to discuss in detail the history and the trajectory of the growth of internet.

Of late, the Information Technology (IT) and its utilization has become more pronounced than ever. This has become more intense with the adoption of internet around the world which subsequently led to the rise of social networking as a global phenomenon. It has emerged as a ‘space’ in itself serving contemporary world ideologies since its inception and also a space where people across the globe organize politically, educated one another and at times utilize it a means to spread propaganda.  In this paper, social networking site is used interchangeably with the various public forums which is contextualized in the case of the Zo people. From the past few years, a common trend which is quite visible among the Zo people is the creation of social networking sites and public forums. However, this is equally a global phenomenon where people around the world connect themselves and share information in social networking sites and public forums through the internet.

At present, the different groups and sub-groups of the Zo people have formed their own groups in social networking sites side by side with various forums and web pages. To mention a few are Zogam.com, Zolengthe, Gangam.com, Kuki International Forum (KIF), etc. A common feature which is similar for the all the groups being formed are the attempts of bringing together ideas and sharing issues related on issues concerning the groups. Serving this purpose, technological development has made possible these different ethnic groups to organize social relationships cutting across local, national and global distances. In other words, these forums are attempt to extract the benefit that the advancement of technology has provided to connect people living in different parts of the globe. To cite an example from the case of Kuki International Forum (KIF), it states “the Kuki International Forum is a common platform for all the KUKIS around the world to make “ONE VOICE” and STAND TOGETHER” as fraternal brethrens for the preservation and promotion of history, culture and identity of the KUKI” . On the same line, we have Zomi International Network and the Zolenthe aiming the same objective. In the former, the aim of the forum is to “embrace the power of Information Technology (IT)- bringing individual and local organizations together in innovative and productive ways” while in the case of the latter, it is “Connecting the ZO People”. To put it succinctly, these new public forums attempt to serve as a tool for connecting the ethnic groups who at present are residing in different parts of the globe. Thus, a simple conclusion which can be drawn is that these different ethnic groups are in the process of grasping the potential of information technology.

The first outcome of these platforms is the development of a ‘network society’ among themselves. Thus under this, members of the group disseminate information through the groups which is available and visible for all the members as well as non-group members. It equally linked the group members who are residing in different parts of the world. In simple words, it led to the emergence of a networking between or among the different ethnic groups by making use of cyberspace for disseminating information as well as communication. What is significant here is the way in which these are emerging as a new platform for dialogue between the same ethnic groups (tribes in this context), and in some cases, cross-cutting different ethnic groups. Consequently, it leads to the emergence of new ‘ethnic space’ where the young and the old meet, the intellect and the laymen share ideas, the youth and the leaders deliberate issues and share opinions, so on and so forth. What is more important and fundamental in here is the fact that it provides a space for participation and expression of one’s opinion for every members of the society, who at some level have been deprived of it in the past.

On top of this, this ‘ethnic space’ is not limited to the local alone, nor is it limited to the regional or national level. This new ‘ethnic space’ expands beyond national boundaries and extends up to the global level. It therefore is really a place where the global meets the local, and the local meeting the global. The global here refers to the Diasporas who have settled in different parts of the world as well as their own ethnic cousins with whom they have been separated with the erection of man-made boundaries particularly in Myanmar and Bangladesh. It is a recognized fact that these artificial boundaries which the modern nation-states erected are not viable at all for ethnic communities like the Zo people. It is at this point in particular which makes these new platforms more crucial and fundamental. It gives them the possibility to break these man-made boundaries and share information than ever in the past.

Moreover, at this stage of globalization, where the movement of humans has become freer and mobile than ever, there is a continuous in-flow and out-flow of population from one place to another. The Zo people over the years also get involved in this process. Many have migrated out of their beloved homeland to get the best opportunities that globalization has to offer. The youth, in particular have migrated out in large numbers in search of a better employment opportunities, while, an equal number of them moved out to acquire knowledge and compete in this world where the ‘fittest only survives’. Nonetheless, I do not negate the numerous factors that cause outward migration particularly the push factors (e.g. insurgency, poverty, less employment opportunities, etc.). In such situation, these websites serves as an important platform for connecting those living in different urban areas of the country. In addition to this, it lay as an important transit for getting oneself informed about the day-to-day happenings at home, and at the same time in the place where one migrated. This again found its expression in the theme of the much celebrated websites Zogam.com which is “Bridging the Zomis”.

Of late, the use of technology, particularly information technology has taken a different but, rather, an interesting turn. It has been used to serve political and military purpose. Here, the use of internet technology as a tool for ‘public mobilization’ is given primacy. It has been successfully utilized in India and elsewhere to serve and achieve political goals (gains). To begin with, the rise of pan-Hindu nationalism was solely an outcome of the technological advancement. “The current possibility of the politicization of the global Hindu community that draws support across the globe was not present 50 years ago. It has largely been achievable because of the internet and digital technology”  . Thus, what we can conclude from here is that the pan-Hindu nationalism gained popular support from the diasporas which strengthen the idea of Hindutva in national and abroad.

Most important is the recent Arab Spring which has been happening few years back which sweep across the Muslim world in particular, pulling down dictatorial regimes. With Tunisia taking the lead, Egypt followed which later was followed by Libya, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon. Thus, the concern here is not necessarily the post-revolution change or reform but the medium of change which lead to it. It was primarily technology that leads to the take-off of such protest. In Egypt in particular, the Facebook group (‘We Are All Khaleid Said’), established in commemoration of blogger who was murdered by Egyptian police in 2010, gathered hundreds of thousands of members, many of whom took part in anti-regime demonstrations . By serving as a ‘tools of connection’, it was solely technology which was laying ground for such change to take place. This group also acted as a connecting node between domestic and transnational networks, helping to ratchet up pressure on elites around the world to ‘do something’ .

Our closest neighbors, the Nagas are the one who so far have been utilizing this well for expressing their cause worldwide. It is a known fact that the Northeast as a region has suffered from continued alienation from the mainland India extending from social, cultural and political sphere. It has been out of the touch of the national media in particular and is absent in most of the mainstream discourse of the country. Moreover, it is a common thing for the Northeast people to be represented wrongly in the mainstream media when they know a little about the region. Knowing this, the Nagas over time have utilized the internet to spread their cause and struggles to the world. There are three important websites launched particularly for the said purpose, viz. nscn on-line (http://www.nscnonline.org), Nagamlim.nl (http://www.nagalim.nl) and "Nagarealm" (http://www.nagarealm.com). NISC’S web site, Nagalim.nl and NSCN-IM’S official web site registered in Netherlands and Bangkok respectively beyond the control and purview of the Indian Government, makes it possible for them to disseminate the political ideologies for these organizations without fearing reprisal from those critiqued . This is fundamental when the entry and exit of outsiders is highly monitored by the State and more so when the State is having absolute authority over the control of media in India. Furthermore, in all the web sites, the Nagas are the “we” with the Indians becoming “other”. The web sites speak for the Nagas who are unlawfully being subjugated by the Indians . Thus, the Nagas have used the internet as a tool for broadcasting their cause to the wider public extending up to the global level.

Here I don’t deny the fact that we have certain websites which are recently launched such as the Zalengam.org and others, but the challenge is how do we make our cause global? Moreover, the biggest challenge is the continual splits that we have experienced over the years. Here I would like to mention the case of the Nagas in particular. The Nagas in the same way are diverse linguistically or culturally, but what put them in an advantageous position is the fact that they have agreed to identify themselves under one banner “NAGA” socially and politically at the global domain. In our case, we are divided along nomenclature line although we theoretically accept the fact that we share the same culture, same history and origin. Thus, it is high time that we learn to give up and sacrifice for the common good. The name “Zo” to me can be only alternative or solution at this stage for representing ourselves at the larger arena while we can keep our other affiliations such as Kuki, Zomi, Mizo or independent existence as a tribe separately depending on one’s preference. The point here is contending for what will serve best in the present and for our future.

There will be, and of course challenges ahead of us. For example, how to take into consideration the voice of our brethrens who are living at the margin or in remote areas where IT has failed to penetrate? Secondly, when all our social networking sites and platforms are exclusivist in nature or ethnic based, the challenge is how do we bring in different groups together? There may be many other challenges, but we cannot always wait for things to happen gradually or face things as determined by others. It is better to act when there is time and when issues are still controllable. Therefore, it is we, the present generation who needs to chart out a new course in our struggle instead of being bogged down by spreading hate messages or countering one another.

In conclusion, we at present may not be at the stage to bring such massive change at a wider level as the Arab Spring or like the Nagas. The point here is that, it is high time that we learn to dissolve our internal differences. Learning from the experience of the Hindus, Nagas we have also reached the stage where we can exploit the available technology for positive change. This will make possible the emergent of a new ‘democratic space’ and allow people from different walks of life to enter into dialogue and share opinions from different perspectives. It is through dialogue accompanied by democratic participation that change is possible. Having political movements of our own, it is high time that we learn lessons to be learnt from others, break our ethnic boundaries and step out of our closed doors as well as our inward-outlook. The possible space of now, to me is the social media which have given ample of opportunities to tell the world the cause of our struggle, our demands and the continual subjugation that we are facing both under the Indian State along with the Manipur State. Thus, ‘digital activism’ is one such mechanism which in actual and in real is a viable way for refreshing our movements when the bullet failed to work out. These may rather be a challenging task, or quiet an optimistic view, but no one knows that “Facebook” can bring about revolution and bring down dictatorial regimes on its knees.

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Notes and References:

[1] Cited in Wikipedia, Johannes Gutenberg. Retrieved 7 December, 2012, from
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johannes_Gutenberg
[11] About KIF on Kuki International Forum, Retrieved 7 December, 2012, from http://kukiforum.com/aboutkif/
[111] See Upadhyay, S.P., & Robinson, R., (2012). Revisiting Communalism and Fundamentalism in India. Economic and Political Weekly. XLVI (36)
[1V] See Lawson, G. (2012). Arab Uprisings at Opendemocracy. Retrieved from 8 December, 2012 fromhttp://www.opendemocracy.net/george-lawson/arabuprisings                                             
[V] Ibid
[VI] See Ranganathan, M., & Chowdhury, S.R., (2008). The Naga Nation on Net. Economic and Political Weekly. 43(29).
[VII] Ibid
References-Ranganathan, M., & Chowdhury, S.R., (2008). The Naga Nation on Net. Economic and Political Weekly. 43(29), 61-68.
Upadhyay, S.P., & Robinson, R., (2012). Revisiting Communalism and Fundamentalism in India. Economic and Political Weekly. XLVI (36), 35-57.