Author Archives: Gurjap Sahota

Social Media and Democracy

For generations now, social media has been a web-based platform where people are able to freely share their thoughts, ideas, and information; however, recent events have forced society to question the notion that social media platforms are democratic. The fundamental aim of social media has been to generate a space where an online community, conversation, and connectivity are created. Social media platforms are terrific for democracy in numerous ways but have downsides as well (Sunstein, 2018, para.6). Social media platforms that were once seen as democracy’s ally, have increasingly become democracy’s enemy (Beauchamp, 2019, 7). In today’s day and age, censorship on social media platforms, racism, incitement to violence, hatred are common problems the people face when talking about injustices and exercising their right to freedom of speech. In this essay, I will specifically be focusing on the infringement of democratic rights on social media platforms by the Indian government.

In order to better understand how platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter have violated the democratic rights of people, insight into the events occurring in India right now is crucial. Presently, the largest protest in human history is taking place in India and the Indian government is not happy with all of the international attention it has gained. More than 60 percent of India’s 1.3 billion population mainly depend on agriculture to survive (Mashal et al, 2021, para.7). So when the Indian government passed three new farm laws this past September undemocratically during a pandemic, with no representation of farmers who will be exploited by these bills; farmers felt unheard and silenced. In response, farmers peacefully protested in their individual states but still, the government showed no sign of remorse. Then, Nationwide farmers decided to protest in India’s capital, Delhi in hopes to be heard this time. It has been almost three months since farmers left their lands, families, homes to peacefully protest on the highways leading to Delhi. It is critical to understand that these three laws will directly be impacting the livelihoods of farmers, so it was an easy choice for the farmers to protest during a global pandemic simply because the laws will take more lives than a deadly virus like covid-19.

The people who have been raising awareness about the farmer’s protest on social media have been constantly facing censorship. Hundreds of Indian Twitter accounts, including those of news websites, activists, and a farmers’ union, were suspended by the Indian government (Pathi, 2021, Para.6). One would think a country that takes pride in being “the largest democracy in the world” would respect freedom of speech on social media platforms but we have seen otherwise. Similarly, one would imagine a platform such as Twitter where freedom of speech is defended, respected, and recognized as a core value would not fall vulnerable to the pressure of power (Twitter Help Center, 2020, Para.1).

Disha Ravi a 21-year-old climate activist was arrested by the Indian police with the help of Google for merely editing a tool-kit that Greta Thunberg, a well-known Swedish climate activist tweeted about to show her solidarity for Indian farmers (Arvin, 2021, Para.2). It is shocking but not surprising to see the Indian government stoop so low to silence and scare its own citizens. Ravi’s arrest is concerning for every social media user who is vocal about the farmer’s protest, especially because of the involvement of technology giants like Google and Twitter (Sangomla, 2021, Para.8).

Many international celebrities like Rihanna, JuJu Smith, Meena Harris, Greta Thunberg, and more have used their social media platforms to show their support for the farmers. This has caused the Indian government to issue a statement criticizing those coming to the aid of farmers online (Ebrahimji, 2021, Para.12). Since then, right-wing Hindu nationalists have bombarded the comment sections of the celebrities and athletes who had shown their support for farmers with rape, death, and hate, threats (Ebrahimji, 2021, Para.15). The Indian government is afraid of the international attention this protest has received and in return has made it clear that it does not appreciate outsiders interfering in India’s “internal affairs.” However, it is important to remember that when human rights are being violated it is everyone’s business to interfere.

All things considered, social media platforms have the potential to be a hundred percent democratic but from time to time we have seen popular social media platforms favor corrupt governments rather than treating everyone equally and allowing freedom of speech. In this specific case scenario, the international attention that arose from a few tweets by celebrities has prevented bloodshed and saved lives! The power of social media is unreal but we could only imagine how impactful it could be if these platforms lived up to their full potential. Hopefully, in the coming years, we see changes in social media in order to make democracy work better (Sunstein, 2018, para.17).

References

Arvin, J. (2021). Climate activist Disha Ravi has been arrested in India for supporting farmers’ protests. Vox. Retrieved from: https://www.vox.com/2021/2/16/22285458/india-climate-activist-farmers-protest-jail-disha-ravi

Beauchamp, Z. (2019). How social media platforms enable politicians to undermine democracy. Vox. Retrieved from: https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2019/1/22/18177076/social-media-facebook-far-right-authoritarian-populism

Ebrahimji, A. C. (2021). Rihanna’s call to support Indian farmers quickly embraced by other celebrities. CNN. Retrieved from: https://edition.cnn.com/2021/02/04/world/rihanna-farmer-protests-indian-government-trnd/index.html

Mashal, M., Schmall, E., & Goldman, R. (2021) Why India’s Farmers Are Protesting. The New York Times. Retrieved from: httpshttps://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/27/world/asia/india-farmer-protest.html

Pathi, S. S. A. K. (2021). Activists, journalists face social media crackdown amid Indian farmer protests. Global News. Retrieved from:https://globalnews.ca/news/7621907/india-farmers-social-media/

Sangomla, A. S. (2021). Disha Ravi arrest: Role of Google, tech companies under cloud. Down To Earth. Retrieved from: https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/governance/disha-ravi-arrest-role-of-google-tech-companies-under-cloud-75563

Sunstein, C. (2018). Is Social Media Good or Bad for Democracy? Sur – International Journal on Human Rights. Retrieved from: https://sur.conectas.org/en/is-social-media-good-or-bad-for-democracy/

Twitter Help Center. (2020). Defending and respecting the rights of people using our service. Twitter. Retrieved from: https://help.twitter.com/en/rules-and-policies/defending-and-respecting-our-users-voice

Mini Assignment #2: Not all superheroes wear capes

The picture was taken at Anandpur Sahib, Punjab, India.

Hi everyone!

My name is Kamala and I am a mother of three. I am not the typical superhero that you see in movies. I don’t have a nice costume to wear or a fancy outfit that makes me stand out from the rest. Truth be told I am just an ordinary working-class woman but what makes me special is the superpower I possess. There are many more out there like me but we like to stay lowkey. The power I possess is of motherhood also sometimes known as the power of resilience. I am a single mother to three beautiful young children who I love the most in the world. I sell toys during the day and finally get to spend time with my children at night. With whatever time I am able to spend with them I try to teach them morals and embed values within them. I teach them to be honest, work hard, and most importantly I teach them to be kind to others because you never know what someone is going through. The people in my life haven’t been so kind to me yet you would think people respect superheroes. I work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and get no days off. When I am at work I’m busy selling toys and when I am at home I immersed in serving the needs of my family. The workload is never-ending, there is always something that needs my attention. Whether it be my mischievous 7-year-old who always picks up fights with the neighborhood kids or the leaking roof in my home.

Usually, people like me aren’t heard enough or silenced by society. So, I am truly grateful for this opportunity to be heard and recognized. After all, people like me run the world as Beyonce said. I would like to end by encouraging everyone to be kind to others even if they don’t look like you or talk like you.

Reflecting on my peer review

For this week’s process post, I will be reflecting on the peer review that was done on JaapsFilm last week. I will be sharing my main takeaways and important feedback that was given. I want to start off by saying the peer review was really helpful and I was able to get insight from a different perspective than mine. This enabled me to think beyond the box and I was able to step out of my personal bias.

To start with, I want to clarify that I struggled to put my website together and meet deadlines. So, my peer review buddy had limited content to review at that time but still, I was very happy with the feedback I received. She suggested that I should use display pictures for not only blog posts but process posts as well which I think is a great idea! I too noticed the emptiness and attention the blank display was stealing. Therefore, I made sure to add a display picture for all of my process posts and tried to relate the pictures to the topic to the of the post. For example, in my previous process post, I talked about how I would collect as much data about my ancestral history as possible if I only had one hour of internet usage left. Thus, I selected a display picture of my homeland Punjab, where my ancestors are from. I do realize that my viewers may not understand this correlation unless I explain it so in the future I might make a blog post about all the process post display pictures.

Furthermore, my peer review buddy also mentioned that it would be nice to see more pictures on blog posts. Since I take multiple pictures when I go to places I can definitely add one or two more to spice up things. Additionally, I need to watch out for small errors and ensure that my writing has been proofread numerous times in order to avoid mistakes.

In conclusion, I am glad we did peer reviews because I know it will really help in enhancing the quality of my website. There is so much more I want to do and I have several ideas I want to incorporate. I can’t wait to see where these ideas take me!

What would you do if only had one hour left with the Internet?

If I only had one hour left to access the internet I would definitely want to do something meaningful with that hour. When I say meaningful I don’t mean spending it on Netflix watching the office although that would be pretty entertaining. I would want to download, screenshot, save as many videos, books, pictures as I could. So, that in the future when there will be no more internet I could save myself from dying of boredom.

Since, that is now established the next question is what meaningful books, videos, and pictures do I want to save for the future? That is a very easy question for me because I know exactly where my interests lie. From a young age, I have been interested in learning more about my roots and ancestors. I have always heard amazing stories about my people, my homeland, and my cultural heritage but I have hardly ever taken time out to further increase my knowledge about my history. I know you might be thinking if I am interested in learning more about my history why wouldn’t I just go ahead and do it. However, when you are constantly surrounded by distractions such as social media, Netflix, tik tok, etc., it can be quite hard to get started. Brian Tracy explains this better than I ever could “The hardest part of any important task is getting started on it in the first place. Once you actually begin work on a valuable task, you seem to be naturally motivated to continue.” So, maybe an internet shutdown is exactly what I need to do what I want to do.

Website visualization infographic

The infographic above gives a quick overview and insight into the flow of my website.

For this week’s process post, I created an infographic to illustrate my vision for JaapsFilm.I want my website content to be easily accessible and well organized. It is crucial for my website to be appealing because that’ll directly impact my viewer’s experience. My website is essentially divided into four parts as shown in the infographic. The first category is the home page where I am able to guide my viewers and represent an overview of my website. Next up, I have an about page where I talk about myself, my passions, and hobbies. It is basically a page where my viewers get to know a little bit more about me and my life. Moving forward, I have a designated category for my weekly blogs which are then divided into three sub-categories. The three sub-categories are labeled adventures, travel, and revolution. Before I had decided what I wanted my sub-categories to be I had to think about what I usually take photos of and what is important to me. For example, advocacy for human rights issues, exploring British Columbia and traveling to different places around the globe, etc. By reflecting upon what is important to me I was able to visualize which components I wanted to incorporate and display on my website. Lastly, to keep track of all of my Pub 101 activity and posts I separated the content into four sections. The first being process posts, followed by mini assignments, peer reviews, and essays.

No Farmers, No Food

This photo was taken in front of the Indian consulate located in Vancouver. Hundreds of protestors had gathered there in hopes to amplify the voices of farmers and show solidarity.

The largest protest in human history is happening right now in India and people’s livelihoods are in danger. This past September three new agriculture laws were passed undemocratically during a pandemic. These laws will deregulate farming and open it up to exploitation by large corporations. Hundreds of thousands of farmers have been peacefully protesting for almost three months on the roads of Delhi now and have been met with numerous forms of police brutality including the use of tear gas, water cannons, and batons. In addition, 250 million people went on strike all across India in hopes the Indian government would repeal the three bills but instead the government violated multiple human rights.

Here are some human rights violations the Indian government has committed:

  • The Indian government is censoring farmers’ protest-related posts on social media platforms such as Instagram, WhatsApp, and Facebook in an attempt to silence voices so the international world doesn’t find out about the human rights violations they have been committing.
  • Peaceful protesters are being attacked with tear gas, batons, and water canons.
  • The Indian government has cut off the internet connection at all protest sites. In an effort to create a social media blackout and stop the communication between protesters and the international community.
  • The Indian government has stopped fresh water and food supply to reach protest sites in an attempt to starve protesters.
  • The Indian police have abducted and unlawfully arrested innocent protesters and journalists. The unlawfully arrested citizens have been faced with torture and abuse in jail.
  • There have been reports of 100+ missing protestors and some have been seen getting abducted by the police.
  • There have been thousands of victims of police brutality by badgeless officers and state-sponsored goons.
  • The Indian media has been creating false propaganda to instill hatred in the uneducated citizens of India against farmers.
  • The Indian government is paying mobs to attack innocent people at protest sites while the police stand and watch the violence take place.
  • Thousands of protesters have been injured by police and hundreds have lost their lives living in the harsh conditions/protest sites.

Imagine the largest protest in human history happening in Canada and our prime minister not showing any sign of remorse or concern. That is the reality for the citizens of India. Hundreds of thousands of protestors have been outside Delhi for 84 days and he has not met them once. Instead, he has had the police attack and arrests them.

If you have ever been to India, have Indian friends, eat Indian food, do yoga, use turmeric, etc this is specifically an ask of you to please share and educate yourself. Please don’t turn a blind eye to injustice! Every like, share, comment, and conversation will help save lives. The Indian government does not care about its farmers but it definitely cares about its international reputation. So, please use your social media platforms to amplify the voices of farmers. All they want is for the three bills to be repealed which were passed undemocratically with no representation of those who will be exploited by them.

February: Black History Month

For decades, black people have faced racism, police brutality, discrimination and have been treated as second-class citizens in their own countries. Solely because some individuals believe that a person’s skin color determines superiority. This photo was taken at a black lives matter protest held in Vancouver this past summer. When the livelihoods of people are at risk, I knew a pandemic couldn’t hold me back from showing my support and solidarity to the black community.

The energy and power at the protest could not be described but only felt. The frustration and anger were clearly visible within the crowd. I truly believe that the black lives movement shifted society and so many had to learn to get comfortable with the uncomfortable in order to feel the pain of the unheard voices.

It is time for society to realize that an individual skin color mustn’t make them inferior to others. Racism doesn’t just show up on its own, it is taught. It blows my mind and breaks my heart that people still don’t get it. It is important to remember that our individual actions directly impact our communities as a whole. So, it is everybody’s responsibility to educate themselves and others on human rights issues.

“Privilege is when you think something is not a problem because you aren’t affected personally.” The first step in eliminating racial discrimination is to recognize and understand your own privilege. With that being said, please take out some time this month to celebrate, amplify and support black lives!

What does true happiness mean to you?

This picture was taken in March 2020 at Sri Harmandir Sahib located in the city of Amritsar, India. I had not asked the elderly in this photo to smile for me rather he had posed for this picture himself. It makes me so internally happy when I see this photo because his smile is so beautiful. I don’t have the words to describe the joy on his face, it’s something you just need to see for yourself.

When I look at this picture I am reminded of what true happiness looks like. True happiness isn’t when you have all the money in the world or when you finally get the dream car that you’ve always wanted. Yes, materialistic things can be the reason behind your happiness but at the end of the day, those things can only give you temporary joy. Then, what is true happiness you may wonder? Is it when you can’t stop laughing and smiling, or is it when you are crying tears of joy?

If you ask me, I believe that true happiness is when you are content with whatever you are given by God. It is when you are in a state of mind in which you realize that this world is an illusion and once a human being realizes that they will be fulfilled with whatever they are given.

Have you ever seen a person always happy? I think this is where you need to define what happiness means for yourself? I am going to end off on a reflective note for my readers. What does being happy mean for you? Do you look at happiness as internal joy for a few minutes or are you yearning for an everlasting state of contentment?

Mini Assignment #1: Three reasons I chose to shoot film over digital

The meme above depicts my reality as a film camera owner. One of the most common questions I get asked from people is why I chose to shoot film over digital. People don’t understand why I don’t just use my phone’s camera or digital camera. They don’t understand why I would want to pay more for grainy pictures or why I would choose to wait for days before receiving my printed photos. Here are three reasons explaining why I do what I do:

#1:My film camera taught me patience

My film rolls can usually take up to 25 photos which means I have 25 chances to capture beautiful memories. Once I hand over my film rolls to the store to get printed I usually need to wait a couple of days before they are ready to be picked up. This process takes a tremendous amount of patience from my side. Sometimes I need to wait for weeks and weeks before seeing my photos because I haven’t yet completed my film roll. If you know me, you know that I’m a very impatient person and prefer instant results. I believe that the most fruitful part is waiting for the imperfect images I receive because it teaches me patience more than anything else. I never thought a film camera could teach me to appreciate the beauty of patience yet here I am.

#2: Family heirloom

I use the canon sure shot film camera to take all my photos. It was passed down to my mom from my grandma and then came to me. All of my childhood photos were taken on it. My grandma first purchased it in the early 2000s and gifted it to my mother. My mom considered the canon sure shot 76mm to be a luxury item and always took great care of it. So, a few years ago when my mom gifted it to me on my birthday I knew that I needed to continue capturing moments on it.

#3: Embracing the imperfections

I love that I only have one chance to get the ‘perfect’ photo and whether or not it turns out how I wanted it to be, it is still always perfect. This may sound cheesy but the imperfections of each photo make it the perfect photo. Each photo triggers an idea, an emotion or a view that differs from person to person. I honestly believe that taking film photos is more than just capturing moments, it’s an art.