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3-min read

A Look at How Social Media Powered Jallikattu Protests

The youth of an entire state are clamouring for the right to conduct a traditional sport that half of them have only seen on television. How did the Jallikattu case that has been in court for years now, suddenly capture the imagination of the masses, enough to make them skip school, college and work and take to the streets?

Aditya Balaji | CNN-News18

Updated:January 20, 2017, 11:50 PM IST
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A Look at How Social Media Powered Jallikattu Protests
Protesters gather in support of Jallikattu in front of Periyar Bus Stand in Madurai on Friday. (PTI Photo)
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The youth of an entire state are clamouring for the right to conduct a traditional sport that half of them have only seen on television. How did the Jallikattu case that has been in court for years now, suddenly capture the imagination of the masses, enough to make them skip school, college and work and take to the streets?

The answer to this is buried beneath superior internet connectivity, hashtags, viral videos, disenchantment and the post-truth phenomenon.

Tamil Nadu boasts of spectacular rural teledensity, well ahead of most other parts of the country. This report by the TRAI should give you a clear picture.

Table1

In fact, Tamil Nadu is second only to UP in the number of internet subscriptions with over 27 million subscriptions. It has the second best rural wireless service area density after Himachal Pradesh with 84.94%.

Table2

So it’s no surprise that the first of its kind social media led and organised protest in such large numbers happened in Tamil Nadu.

The entire creation and organisation of the massive protests in Chennai was done online — on Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp. Classmates, colleagues, friends, relatives were all posting, tweeting, re-tweeting or forwarding messages, audio clips and videos about Jallikattu.

Ask any Tamil friend what’s the most circulated forward in the last one month and pat would come the reply — Jallikattu.

These posts aren’t just a call to support Jallikattu. They’re all passionately waxing the glory of Jallikattu.

Hiphop Tamizha’s Takkaru Takkaru was the first viral content on Jallikattu that came out a year ago to increase awareness.

Hiphop Tamizha’s Takkaru Takkaru was the first viral content on Jallikattu that came out a year ago to increase awareness.

#Jallikattu was in at least 600,000 tweets since January 5. The majority of these tweets coming in from different corners of Tamil Nadu.

Data as on Janaury 20 at 2:45pm

Data as on Janaury 20 at 2:45pm

#JusticeForJallikatu has been tweeted well over a million times since January 17.

Data as on Janaury 20 at 2:45pm

Data as on Janaury 20 at 2:45pm

To understand how the protest took shape it is necessary to get a forensic overview of how the following hashtags, which were used by the pro-Jallikattu group.

#WeDoJallikattu

#IsupportJallikattu

#WeDidJallikattu

#SaveOurCultureJallikattu

#JusticeForJallikattu

#MarinaProtest

In the run up to Pongal, viral content surfaced promoting Jallikattu, its cultural significance and its alleged scientific benefits.

Tweets started pouring in from across the state and expats across the world. Facebook groups started mushrooming and amassing followers quickly.

WhatsApp forwards in Tamil started getting circulated about the threat to indigenous breeds.

Messages were being exchanged on how the ban on Jallikattu was not just an attack on Tamil culture, but an elaborate front for vested foreign corporate interests who were trying to wipe out indigenous breeds so that they could takeover India’s dairy industry. The validity of these claims is yet to be proven.

The first hashtag that started getting traction was #WeDoJallikattu. It surfaced on January 7 and was used to spread awareness about Jallikattu and to aggregate the voices in support of Jallikattu. The majority of tweets were from Tamil Nadu and got shared by the expat community in the Middle East and South East Asia as well.

data3

#WeDidJallikattu surfaced on the 13th when stray incidents of flouting the SC ban started. Images of stray incidents were shared on Facebook and WhatsApp groups.

data4

It peaked only after pongal when people started reposting the incidents with image grabs from newsflashes.

new-data

The next in this series was #iSupportJallikattu that surfaced on the 9th and was being actively used to rally support for the call to revoke the ban. This hashtag too was used to circulate information on why Jallikattu was important.

But by the time the protests at Marina started to happen, it was being used to network amongst the protestors to coordinate and plan the event, supplies and F&Bs.

data6

These are tweets from Tamil film composer Imaan who used the hashtag to distribute food to protesters.

data7

By the 17th, #MarinaProtest had emerged.

data8

This hashtag was used to inform people of facilities available at the protest site and inform them of regular updates.

data9

By the 18th #SaveOurCultureJallikattu had surfaced and the protest was in full swing.

Add to the novelty of a social media uprising, pleasant weather at the beach, an opportunity to skip classes and work indefinitely, food and water being brought in on time — it’s no surprise that the protesters were well behaved.

A disenchantment with the ruling party after the unexpected demise of the party’s only face, a wary opposition that is yet to win back the trust of the people after the 2G scam and several popular actors who have endorsed PeTA in the past – it’s only understandable that the youth did not want any politician or actor to help further their cause.

Little do the people of Tamil Nadu realize the dangerous precedent they have just set.

| Edited by: Nitya Thirumalai
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