How are youth-led movements and campaigns mobilizing and engaging people in India?

Four weeks ago, I left a cold wet Australian winter and arrived in the heat and hustle and bustle, of Delhi. In the month of July undertook a research project for Haiyya in order to investigate the types of methodologies, tools and practices utilised by some of the top youth-led activists, movements & community organizing groups in India. The aim of this project was to identify the community organizing practices activists and campaigners are utilising in their work and to disseminate the findings with Haiyya’s networks. The hope is that this in turn will provide the community organizing sector with a resource to support campaigning and leadership initiatives in India.

Key Findings

Which is the most common approach of community organizing being utilised?

The survey revealed that all participants utilised community organizing framework in one way or another. The approach varied, some participants utilised peer education and others took a participatory approach. However, the most common theme was the use of narrative. The sharing of stories and experiences with others in order to create relationships, empower people to lead and create lasting social change. When deciding the types of campaigns that the activist or community organizing group should undertake, participants largely responded that they or their organization were guided by social justice issues impacting communities.

Is an organizing plan necessary for campaign initiatives? And if so, what should this plan consist of?

Seventy-five percent of participants felt that an organizing plan was essential for campaign initiatives. These participants stated that a good organizing plan should incorporate interest and input from the community volunteers, mentoring and supervision of volunteers and new leaders, and agreement on goals of desired impact. In addition, participants stated that in order to build a campaign on the right foundation, it is important for a plan to include participation of all stakeholders, how progress will be monitored and to always consider the social justice issue you are working towards in the approaches you undertake.

So why do people mobilise to act on social justice issues?

Pinjra Tod, n.d

Activists and community organizers stated that people are predominantly motivated to act or lead due to oppression, the social justice issue at hand or the immediate consequences of the campaign. For example, one particular activist was working on a campaign to normalise and reduce embarrassment surrounding women’s undergarments, the campaigner hung bras on a wall to protest an issue and also to normalise women’s undergarments. In addition, the survey revealed that activists and organizers felt that people are also motivated to act through a sense of belonging, relationships of trust built with campaigners and community, and hope for a better future.

What are some key challenges community organizers face when mobilising people to act?


Participants stated that some of the key challenges surrounding mobilisation to act involve the stigma surrounding the issue, inaccurate knowledge about issues,and fear of repercussions of participating in campaigns from community, family, authorities or religious faith. For example, one participated stated that the main purpose of their campaigns was to end the practice of female genital cutting. The participant stated that their “main challenge is countering all kinds of pro-cutting arguments that are rooted in religious faith and convincing our target audience that we do not wish to antagonise the community or critique the religion or their faith.”

What makes for successful campaigns?

Participants in the study stated that a successful campaign should take a grass-roots, bottom up approach that incorporates open communication, a functional and proactive feedback loop and be process orientated as opposed to outcome orientated.

What makes for unsuccessful campaigns?

The study revealed that most activists and community organizing groups found that a campaign that incorporated judgemental language, was antagonistic towards the community they were working in and one that used a ‘cookie cutter’ model of campaigning with no flexibility was destined to fail.

By Karen O’Reilly
Karen is a student at University of Sydney pursuing Masters of Human Rights. She worked as a researcher for Haiyya for the months of June – July.


Cyberbullying: Understanding the online demon and combating it

In the current climate where being online is getting increasingly unsafe and toxic, how can we as a community come together to change that?

With the rampant rise of Cyberbullying and trolling in India, there’s a different case one hears in the news every other day. The menace has claimed victims from ordinary citizens to celebrities and journalists, and even some politicians. While cyberbullying is being recognised as an issue, there is sparse effort to organise and take collaborative action on it.

On 30th June, we at Haiyya hosted ‘Action Adda: End to Trolling’ to address the menace of cyberbullying. The idea was to create a platform for discussion about the issue and come up with plans to tackle it. The event saw law and policy experts, including Inspector Anish Sharma, Incharge Cybercell, Saket Police Station, Delhi Police, Kislay Chaudhary, Founder, Indian Cyber Army, and Surkhraj Vimal Kaur, Senior Manager, ICT & Communications, New Concept Information Systems, and participants engage in fervent discussions to understand cyberbullying, share their personal experiences, and interact with the experts about the recourses in place to deal with the issue.


1) Nothing online is private
Nothing we do online is private, nothing we say online is private and nothing we see online is really private. From Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica fiasco to other multiple cases of private information and data leaks, nationally and internationally, there is every reason why we need to be aware when posting anything online.

Urgent need for stronger laws
While Section 66A of the Information Technology Act 2000 “provided remedies against offences which involve sending of offensive messages through a communication service”, it was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2015 to uphold freedom of speech. This has created a gap, and there is an urgent need for a provision that resolves the friction between cyber-bullying and freedom of speech. There is also a lack of law or provision that specifically covers mass trolling, which has been a critical issue off-late, with a number of mass trolling cases, including ones wherein journalists Rana Ayyub, Ravish Kumar, and Minister of External Affairs, Sushma Swaraj were extensively trolled and cyberbullied.






Source: The Quint

Rights-based approach to reporting offense

There are special cybercells in police stations for redressal of cyber-related offences, but authorities state that they are unable to act because the victims don’t report the crime. However, the police seem to be passing the buck onto the victims, as people, specifically women (one of the most viciously targeted group online) who face cyberbullying state that they fear lack of privacy protection when filing a complaint, specifically in sensitive cases wherein, for example, a jilted lover or revenge porn might be involved. As police is the only agency for redressal of cyber offences, we must push for sensitization, and a rights-based approach to reporting. An increase in the number of reports would also pressure the authorities to take the issue more seriously and act upon the issue.

Stronger collaboration of campaigners and groups
Campaigners and groups are working on the issue of cyberbullying, but are doing so in isolation. These groups must collaborate, pitch together ideas and resources to come up with strategies for lobbying for stronger laws, sensitising the police and creating awareness about cyberbullying and trolling.

What actions can we take as a community?
While there are gaps and challenges in the current laws and processes, here are some of the actions that we can take as citizens to combat cyberbullying.

  • Understand the World Wide Web and follow basic safety: If you find reading privacy policies and guidelines of platforms to be too tedious, refer to articles that breakdown these guidelines and policy changes in simple terms and explain the key things a user needs to know. When posting anything online be aware of the size of your audience, and the content and opinions you put out there.
  • Be aware of your R&R and take action: Be familiar with your rights and responsibilities. Before you approach the police, see what immediate actions you can take on the platform. Platforms offer some redressal, and often you can report an offensive post or a profile misusing your picture and have the platform take it down. But in more extreme or serious cases, approach the police to file an official complaint, as police are the only agency that exists.

How to make a complaint?

Note: There are Cybercells in different districts of Delhi NCR. The information of each cybercell can be accessed here. There are similar cybercells that exist in each city that can help one by filing a complaint as well.
  • Build ‘Safe Groups’: Imagine if there was a cyber version of ‘neighbourhood watch’, a group of citizens dedicated to keeping online spaces safe. The group is inclusive, and has everyone, across age, gender, sexual orientation and other diverse groups. The group engages with the diverse members and create guidelines on those bases. The group creates awareness about the dangers and effects of cyberbullying, intimidation, threatening and discrimination, and educates people about the laws and provisions, and advocates for stronger laws. It will also strategise ways to engage with the trolls to educate them.

It is time we stop condoning cyberbullying and trolling, and come together to organize, strategise and take action to combat this social evil.



By Abhishek Desai

Abhishek Desai is the Communications Coordinator at Haiyya Foundation. With over half a decade of experience in journalism and writing, his interests lie in gender equity, equal rights and sexuality. He takes a deep interest in fringe cultures.