Gondwana is a large, disparate region. It encompasses six states and numerous ethnicities and spoken languages. It’s also home to a long-simmering Maoist insurgency that has killed more than 10,000 people since its first armed uprising in 1967. The insurgency was fed, in part, by a number of long-ignored local grievances. This included a lack of basic services and amenities, such as educational opportunities, medical care, and land ownership. This was exacerbated by language differences in the region; most of Gondwana’s residents speak local languages, including Gondi (after which the region is named), rather than India’s official language, Hindi. As a result, many of the residents’ biggest issues were ignored by authorities and Indian media alike.
To him, creating a local forum was imperative for democracy. “If you speak to 99 percent of the people, ‘Why have they taken up guns?’ They told me, ‘This is pen, this is our mic … we’re trying to speak.’”
As Choudhary recalled, at the time of Swara’s founding, less than one percent of households in the region had internet access.
He realized that for CGNet to truly become a platform that represented the people, he needed to move it offline. So, in 2010, Choudhary teamed up with Thies to build the offline “flat communication platform, where everybody can tell stories — just like everyone can vote.”
CGNet Swara was originally created to fill a particular need: offering an internet-like form of communication in a context with limited connectivity. But internet access may be about to drastically increase in Chhattisgarh, one of the states of Gondwana where Swara is particularly active.
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