It was a cold December 2009, and I had reached Dantewada district, in the state of Chhattisgarh in central India. Along with a colleague, I had ventured into the epicentre of the bloody tug of war between the government's armed forces and the Maoists, in the race for natural resources to be grabbed from adivasis (tribals) by mining giants. While the mainstream media had only been sporadically reporting about casualties from either camps, I had heard of the arson, deaths and rapes taking place in several adivasi villages. These incidents of 'collateral damage' had been ignored by the mainstream media.
Every night of that chilly winter in Dantewada, I began to type out furiously into my blog (www.priyanka-borpujari.blogspot.com). I wrote about the girl who was gang-raped by the local militia but was not told to keep mum, lest her entire clan and village would be wiped out. I wrote about a cock fight during a weekly market, which was the perfect metaphor in the way the government was pitting a gory battle between the poor – the armed militia comprising malnourished teens, and the armed Maoists who only sought revenge. I wrote and shared on my blog the video interview of the senior-most police official in that district, who lied on camera about the sudden disappearance of an injured adivasi lady who had been prime eye-witness to a massacre of 11 people by the government's forces. Every night, I blogged and shared my posts with 500 email IDs.
Google Analytics showed an upward curve for my blog traffic. Suddenly, I realised my phone was being tapped. One morning, men from the Electricity Board arrived at the ashram where we were camped, and disconnected us from the world. Finally, I began to receive calls from my friends in the city – who had been reading my blogs – who said that they could no more access my blog.
That same evening, cops attacked us on charges of being intruders in the area, and for misbehaving with local journalists. My colleague and I were beaten; my camera was snatched by two burly lady constables. It was a long night of terror, between the police station, and several phone calls to activists and lawyers. The next day, a local newspaper screamed that we had been charged for dacoity. On the other hand, to save ourselves, we filed a case of attempt to murder – the previous day, about 200 local men had suddenly assembled to pelt stones at us. Eventually, the police begged us to leave the state.
Today, almost everyone in India knows that the colour of once-green Dantewada is now red. My blog posts woke up the country to a hushed civil war. The success of my blog lies in the irony that the blog was blocked and I was attacked. This is the power of Web 2.0 – it was the conduit to fulfill my duty as an independent journalist who had no support of a corporate-led mainstream media. I only had blessings, and the Internet.Voices of Our Future Application: Empowerment and Web 2.0