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From tractor to Twitter: How Punjabi netizens turned the table on trolls | Ludhiana News



JALANDHAR: It was on January 8 that a hashtag in Gurmukhi was among the top trends on Twitter for the first time ever, “jaan_mrange_jaan_jittange” (shall die or win). The declaration was in relation to the farmers protest on the borders of Delhi and how protesters would only turn back if there was a repeal of the farm laws, else they would die at the protest sites.
Several non-Punjabi netizens also used the hashtag while tweeting in different languages. This was not just an assertion on behalf of farmers, but of Punjabi netizens on Twitter. The platform had not been much popular among Punjabis before the farm movement. But, given how electoral politics was being fought on Twitter, it was no surprise that the virtual war was fought with just as much intensity on Twitter as on the ground.
When farmers from Punjab left for Delhi, Haryanvi farmers provided them the first protective cover, physically and in building a narrative. Then, the larger Sikh community put its weight behind the protesters, and then farmers from other communities and states also extended support.
In the virtual world also, a similar pattern was seen. By the time the protest was going ahead in full steam, people from diverse identities had also started contributing.
In last week of November, Punjabi singers and actors Diljit Dosanjh, Amarinder Gill and Gippy Grewal had started speaking in support of farmers. Rana Ranbir was among the first artists to push the campaign. Former MP Dharamvira Gandhi and other social media influencers issued separate appeals through Facebook to Punjabi netizens to join Twitter to run hashtags in support of farmers.
A special handle, @Tractor2twitr, was started on November 29 and a campaign under the same name launched. “As BJP and right-wing ecosystem has a strong presence on social media, especially on Twitter, they were running a campaign against farmers to vilify their agitation. We realised that it was imperative to use all social media platforms, especially Twitter. We also formed a WhatsApp group to run this campaign, but soon it was in auto-pilot mode and Punjabi netizens joined twitter in droves and started countering propaganda against farmers. Our initial phase was to counter false narratives. After a few weeks, we started setting our own narratives,” said Bhavjit Singh, who created the Twitter handle and also conceived the campaign with friends.
In the first week of the farmers parking themselves at borders of Delhi, their supporters made Tractor2Twitter and three other hashtags trend for three consecutive days on Twitter, while also pushing up other hashtags in the trending list in support of farm protests. Some influential twitter handles and netizens from other places also chipped in, but Punjabi netizens were again at the core of this activity. Prominent Punjab singer Ranjit Bawa tweeted: “Eve lagda jinve sara Punjab aa gya twitter te (It seems as if all of Punjab has joined Twitter).”
On December 7, Diljit Dosanjh and actor Kangana Ranaut had a spat on Twitter. In fact, the war of words between the two pushed more people from Punjab to join Twitter.
Soon after, farm groups also launched their official Twitter handle, Facebook page and Instagram account, all under the name of Kisan Ekta Morcha, to ensure they could disseminate information and fight misinformation campaigns.
Not just reacting but setting the narrative
Aman Warich, who has also been very active and is also part of @Tractor2twitr team, said initially, pro-government or pro-BJP Twitter handles would run competitive hashtags, but a few weeks later when pro-farmer hashtags would remain ahead, they stopped competing. “Maximum times pro-farm hashtags were on number one or two,” she said. Tractor2twitr founder Bhavjit Singh said a big section of Punjabi netizens push pro-farmer hashtags, while people from other states and communities also pooled in. “We design and make graphics and other content, collate facts and research and then presenting these in simplified form. We ran campaigns in 10 different languages,” he said.

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