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Book Review: The Big Connect by Shaili Chopra

Shaili Chopra Book ReviewThe Big Connect: Politics in the Age of Social Media by Shaili Chopra came at a very opportune time: when the country was in the middle of the General Elections. I intended to read the book earlier, but thanks to the maddening pace at which we were working back then, it was near to impossible.

The author came up with the idea as a result of a conversation with her friend over lunch on whether the social media is at the centre of politics in today’s world. She has used several social media studies and research reports that have been released over time to write her book. It is detailed, well researched and clubs together into perspective several separate studies conducted by various agencies.

Social media has emerged as a new and effective way of reaching out to people; it is quick and cost-effective way of sharing information. She has cited examples of how social media platforms are used by various politicians in the world (as well as India) to reach out to citizens. She has dealt with facts on how social media is changing the definition of political campaign in India. From Barrack Obama in 2008 to the BJP in 2014, she has presented some insightful examples.

However, what I felt after reading the book, was it lacked a purpose. It looked like a PhD thesis by a college student. The studies and conversations she has cited in her book, have all been dealt with, talked about on various blogs, in several studies. Moreover, the tone in the book was very cautious. Shaili had faith in the power of social media, but was hesitant to make a prediction of how important it will become in the future. The book was more of what has been done in the past, than what can be done in the times ahead.

Overall, the book is good for a newbie on social media, a collectible for agencies to get all campaign strategies at one place for quick reference.

My Rating: 2.5/5 stars

About the author

Shaili Chopra is an Indian writer and business journalist. The business editor of Tehelka, she was also the Senior Editor and Lead Female Anchor at ET Now.

A graduate of The Asian College of Journalism, Chennai, Ms. Chopra was awarded the Ramnath Goenka Award for Excellence in Business Journalism at the Indian Express RNG Awards 2012 and also has a golf column Column Tee Off with Shaili Chopra on DNA.

DISCLAIMER: All Images Used In This Blog Post Have Their Respective Copyrights

Politics over a dead body

madhyamgram gang rape

The culture of politics in West Bengal has always been vitriolic, opportunist and crude – to say the least. Three decades of Communist rule has destroyed the very fabric of a democratic dialogue, and courtesies in the State. That the current Chief Minister has been on a course of corrective measures is a different story. But a recent tragedy, followed by display of exemplary standards of shamelessness by political formations in the State, has sent the political observer in me into a tizzy.

On October 25, 2013 a 16 year old girl was raped in Madhyamgram, by a local fish-seller and his friends. The girl lodged a complaint the very next day. 3 days later, while returning after medical tests, the girl was raped again. Following a second complaint, all accused were arrested. The date was October 31, 2013. 55 days later, on December 17, 2013 the police chargesheeted.

However, the events took a tragic course, as the girl was found ablaze on December 23, 2013 – theories for the reasons of which have been many. The parents, initially told police the girl attempted suicide, unable to bear the constant chatter about her character from the neighbours and society at large. Few days later, it was alleged that the victim was set afire to prevent her from proceeding with the case.

On December 31, as the world was ushering in the New year, the victim succumbed to her burn injuries. She had suffered 65-70% burns. That is when all hell broke loose.

The father of the victim is reportedly a member of the CITU. According to a Bengali news channel, the mother of the prime accused went on record to say the accused has been an active member of the Forward Bloc for 25 years, and currently served the CPI(M) since 2010. Although, on 31 Dec, RG Kar Hospital complex was thronged by activists belonging to the same Communist Party, whose members perpetrated the ghastly crimes, demanding justice for the girl.

To make matters worse, the Govt of Bihar jumped in to fish in troubled waters. Just because the family of the girl was of Bihari origin, he ordered monetary help for the dead girl, and even sent the State DIG to Bengal (against all rules and jurisdiction). Shameless display of crony parochialism at its worst. Even the Congress, which beat up peaceful protesters after Delhi gangrape, instead of taking corrective action, flocked the streets shedding tears for “Kolkata’s Damini”.

Having been associated with many protest movements in the past, I was baffled. What was the definition of justice in this case? The accused were in jail, case was moving on fast-track basis, hearing was due to begin in January, and the State Government promised they will seek highest punishment in the case.

If the goondaism of the Communist organisations at the hospital on New Year’s eve was deplorable, so was the unpreparedness of the administration the next day. The police tried to prevent a repeat of previous night’s ruckus and tried to quietly sneak out the body of the victim for cremation. But the CITU hijacked the body of the girl, paraded it all through the city and turned a victim into a showpiece at their party office for the full day. Coming from the party that assassinated Tapasi Malik, and dragged a Union Ministry out of the Secretariat for demanding justice for Jagori Baske, the sudden love for women’s rights was astounding. Like Kamduni, Madhyamgram was easily turned into a political tool.

The tamasha ensued with the national media throwing their hats in, social media outrage (with half truths) and constant politics over a dead body that was a political goldmine now. One fake account on Twitter, impersonating the WB CM, even went to the extent of declaring the accused as cadre of the ruling party. Some non resident bengalis, whose knowledge of happenings in the state is derived from stories in NDTV and Hindustan Times (or Anandabazar at best), devised their own version of how the girl was raped and burnt alive on the same day.

In this jet age, when people do not have time to read beyond headlines, spreading misinformation is not difficult. I just want to ask a few questions to my readers, hope i get some answers:

1. Were the accused in the rape case not arrested within 3 days?

2. Were the accused not chargesheeted within record 50 days? Has the Govt not added the charge of murder after the death of the victim?

3. Did the Govt not offer all help to family, legal and financial? A probe on the immolation bid is on. What else do people want? Verdict in kangaroo court?

4. People protested against police’s role after the girl’s death. Why did the same people not find CITU’s vicious play of politics unpalatable?

5. Parading with a dead body, shouting political slogans, is feminism?

6. Those who are calling for justice, please enlighten me with the definition of the same.

Useful links:

First report of the gangrape in Madhyamgram:

Chief Secretary of WB on the incident –

The Police chargesheet:

Suicide bid of the girl and her death:

Did constant ostracisation by neighbours lead the girl to suicide?

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