Why I founded Seven Sisters Project?

Seven Sisters 2

From my teenage days I took up traveling as one of my never ending passions. I used to always travel cheap, stay in dorms and mix with the locals. But there was something which kept me thinking, the general attitude of mainland tourists towards northeast India. At points of my travel I will bump into mainland Indians who like their nosy counterparts will blast me with questions like, why am I traveling alone, if I don’t get bored etc. Same time they will caution me not to go to Northeast India. They will give me varied reasons ranging from Mizos will inject me with HIV blood, Nagas hate Indians and they will spear me. But from the bottom of my heart I knew that all of them were a bunch of hypocrites and nothing else. In 2007 quite accidentally I relocated to Delhi. Here I encountered a very different situation. Like any other metros Delhi has a huge number of youths from the Northeast. Most study, then work in the service industry and send money back home. I saw them facing racist jibes from other Indians which include being called chinki, dog eaters to the extent of sexual violence.

At this point of time I started meeting quite a few people from Nagaland, Manipur, Assam and to my good fortune they are my good friends today. Over the years during our chats I realized that there is a big vacuum between the two sides of this nation. If the central government didn’t want to develop Northeast even after 1962 war with China merely out of concern that China will use the infrastructure to occupy Northeast permanently, then mainland Indians have also largely ignored this region.

In a nutshell what we have now is a bunch of stereotypes floating around. I started thinking what I can do as an individual to overcome this bridge? Whether we can create a medium where indigenous communities staying in Northeast India can tell their stories without being censored? One thing we noticed is the huge progress in mobile phone penetration in Northeast India. (increased from 26% in March 2009 to 47% in September 2010. Source: Sinlung.com). I realized if we can somehow connect people with a platform where they can call a toll free number to record their opinion/stories on issues they care about, then we will be able to at least make an effort to bridge this information gap.

Fast Forward Seven Sisters Project-

The idea was simple- Use a open source software used in building India’s first Interactive Voice Response reporting system CGNet Swara and integrate it with a Facebook app which will let people share news of Northeast India similar to apps being used by Guardian and other news sites, just that ours will be voice based. Primary mode of communication will be mobile phones and the technology would simply combine an Interactive voice response system and Facebook application to create a mobile reporting network for Northeast India, with the aim of spreading news through Facebook to users in different parts of the country.

Our idea won the inaugural Access Now’s Tech Innovation Award in the Facebook category and with that small grant we started our journey. I just finished my first leg of the Northeast tour covering bits of Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram. The stories can be found on our website- www.sevensistersproject.org.

How does it work?

The Seven Sisters Project uses open-source voice portal technology that enables citizens to report and discuss issues of local interest. To use the portal, individuals call 08376952143 using any mobile or fixed line phone. Callers are prompted to press “1″ to listen to stories recorded by others, “2” to comment on stories, and “3” to record a story. Once a message has been recorded from the field, a team of professional, trained moderators access the system using a Web-based interface, review and verify each report. Approved reports are then made available for playback over the phone and can be accessed on the Seven Sisters Project Facebook page, Website and on Twitter.

Join Us Where We Live-

Phone- 08376952143

Website: www.sevensistersproject.org

Facebook: www.facebook.com/sevensistersproject

Subscribe to our newsletter – http://bit.ly/15v1p2U

Twitter: @7sistersprojekt

Email: info@sevensistersproject.org

Open Letter To Swami Agnivesh: I Am A Meat Eater But Not A Rapist

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To Swami Agnivesh,

Bandhua Mukti Morcha 7,

Jantar Mantar Road,

New Delhi-110001

Date- April 27, 2013

Namaste Swamiji,

Apologies for writing in English Swamiji. Since we are uneducated, urban, not-so-young people who eat meat and drink beer all the time; we prefer English as well. You might not remember me, though we have met quite a few times. I have even come to your office in Jantar Mantar. But that’s okay. I am one of those many meat eating, alcohol friendly youth whom you always dislike :)

I happened to read your statement in Times of India, “Rapes will come down if people shun meat, alcohol: Swami Agnivesh”. I won’t go into your reasons behind it as you know it much better than me. Your statement didn’t sound astonishing to me at all. Actually, you also followed the tradition of our dear politicians and some other swamiji’s who had taken the easy way out to blame women and other useless factors for the ongoing rape culture in this country. Let me give you some brief information about me and my Bengali culture. We are hardcore fish and mutton eaters. It’s like our religion. Bengalis can shun vegetables but they will never shun fish. My father is also one of them. But guess what Swami Jee, my father never indulged in any kind of violence against anyone, forget women. The work I am doing today is also because he inspired me in a way. He leads a righteous life and eats a lot of fish and meat. I his son, an organiser/activist, am also a hardcore non-veg consumer and a hardcore drinker in a way. I can drink beer like its water. Vodka and Gin are like amrit to me. But guess what? Till today I haven’t been involved in any kind of violent acts, forget about violence against women. I have drank and ate meat with my female friends but they have all been safe in my company. Actually, friends call me a ladies man since my quota of female friends is more than male friends. No one has ever complained that Shibayan is a misogynist or a violent man.

You have also quoted some report by a Japanese scientist. May I request you to make it public and put it forward for public debate? If nothing, but just for the sake of vindicating your stand. Will you please do it Swami Jee?

Let me quote my Kashmiri friend here to put everything in context: “Rape happens because rapists can get away with it. Everything else is just eyewash”

If time permits, I and a couple of friends are planning to organise an open air party in Jantar Mantar right outside your office. We plan to bring lot of meat and plenty of alcohol. We will send you a proper invitation to join us. Please do attend when it happens. Don’t worry, we will include some tasty vegetarian dishes too since we respect your choice.

With Love and Freedom,

Shibayan
Meat eater and Lover of Corona Beer

 

The Open Letter was also published by Youth Ki Awaaz: Mouthpiece for the Youth

 

My Talk on Digital Activism and Anti-Corruption Movement, Indus Business Academy

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I was invited to give a talk on Digital Activism and India’s Anti-corruption Movement at Indus Business Academy’s Sixth International Conference on Situating New Management Philosophy: Nature- Mind-Technology on February 21, 2013. As part of my talk I also presented a pdf presentation on Digital activism and tactics used by the Anna Hazare led anti-corruption movement.

Participating organizations include leading technology firms, manufacturing firms, environmental organizations and movements, digital activists, academicians, students, researchers from leading organizations across India. The conference is also being addressed by leading personalities including Dr. Vikas Amte (noted social worker), Dr. A. Ravindra (Adviser to CM on Urban Affairs), Dr. Swati Ramanathan (Janagraaha), Dr. Venkatesh Hariharan (Red Hat and Google),  Dr. Shazaad Shams (ICT4D, London), Dr. Aravind Chinchure (Reliance Innovation Council), Prof. K.B.Akhilesh (IISc), Mr. Vikas Malpani (Common Floor),  and Dr. Yellappa Reddy (noted environmentalist) among others.

 

Survey shows thumbs down to government’s Lokpal bill

Fri Aug 12 2011 17:58:57 GMT+0530 (IST) by IANS

New Delhi, Aug 12 (IANS) A majority of people surveyed by a campaigning organisation Awaz do not support the Lokpal bill tabled in parliament that excludes the prime minister, MPs, the judiciary and civil servants from the ambit of the Lokpal (ombudsman).

The survey, released Friday, was conducted in six cities – Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad and Bangalore. A total of 1,518 people over the age of 18 were interviewed.

A total of 75 percent respondents felt that the government’s bill will not effectively tackle corruption.

Seventy-six percent indicated that they would not vote for a party that did not support an effective anti-corruption draft law and said that tackling corruption will be a motivating issue at the polls.

“The government’s Lokpal bill can be renamed as Protection of Corrupt Public Servant Bill or Promotion of Corruption Bill and will not do any good in the current scenario where corruption has pervaded from top to bottom of governance,” said Prashant Bhushan, civil society member of the Lokpal bill joint drafting committee.

“Indian voters will take to the streets to get an anti-corruption bill with teeth. The government is forging ahead with their joke-pal bill. It is time for the government to listen to the people of the country,” said Shibayan Raha, a campaigner of Avaaz.

Forty-eight percent of the people surveyd were ready to protest on the streets if the government fails to pass a strong Lokpal bill.

“Active participation of people can now make the government change its mind,” Bhushan added.

Avaaz decries cabinet’s endorsement of a weak Lokpal Bill

Agencies Jul 28, 2011, 01.58pm IST

NEW DELHI: Avaaz, the global campaigning organisation, with nearly 700,000 members in India, slammed the decision of the Indian Cabinet to push through a weak and toothless Lokpal bill. They criticised the cabinet for ignoring hundreds of thousands of Indian’s who are demanding a strong bill that includes in it’s remit the PM, MPs, Judiciary and all levels of bureaucracy.

Shibayan Raha, Campaigner for Avaaz said: “Corruption is arsenic in the water of our democracy and the Cabinet have chosen to keep our politics polluted rather than clean up our country of this poison.

In just 24 hours, over ten thousand men and women from across the country have sent faxes directly to Cabinet members demanding a strong bill. But, Ministers are protecting the elite status quo and not bold enough to respond to the public clamour with measures that could truly tackle corruption. “We will continue fighting to ensure we get a law that rids India of the scourge of corruption,” Raha said.

For the past four months people have been campaigning for a Jan Lokpal through Avaaz. Over 685,000 people have taken action by signing a petition to PM, sending emails directly to the Lokpal Drafting Committee, calling minister’s offices, sending personal messages to Sonia Gandhi, and sticking up billboards and thousands of posters across the country.

This week over 10,000 faxes were sent to the cabinet urging them to listen to the voices of the people and bring a strong anti-corruption bill to root out corruption once and for all in this country.