A video of students stranded in the war-torn Ukrainian city of Sumi holding Indian flags and threatening to cross the border into Russia on foot caused a stir in the national and international media, prompting Indian authorities to quickly track down their eviction process.
As of Wednesday, all trapped students had been evacuated from the northeastern Ukrainian city.
The incident provides a fitting example of how social media helped people trapped in the ongoing war involving Russia and Ukraine.
Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, social media platforms have been flooded with videos and photos of Eastern European countries, soldiers and even politicians.
Jisna Gigi, 25, a medical student who was part of a group of about 700 Indian students who decided to travel to the border on foot, said social media played a key role in their removal.
“We were asking the authorities to evacuate us as our resources began to dwindle and there was constant shelling, but the requests fell on deaf ears. Disappointed with the lack of response, we decided to post a video on social media. It went viral and Within hours, we received a response from the government and now, we are being removed, “he said.
Mobile phones in hand, soldiers and civilians are preparing war documents while it is being exposed.
Medical student Awsaf Hussain, 25, a resident of Kerala, was trapped in a metro bunker with his friends. Their resources were rapidly running out and there was no sign of help coming.
So he decided to use his Instagram page, which was followed by several thousand people, to document his daily struggles in the bunker. He posted several videos, told gruesome stories and showed buildings damaged by constant shelling and bombings.
In several videos, he describes their lives in the bunker in detail, describing what kind of problems they faced and how they were providing drinking water and food to survive.
Speaking to PTI, Hussein said he began documenting his life in the bunker so people could watch the videos and come forward for help.
“When the war started, we had no one to help us. So we started recording videos so that those who saw us could help us. It seemed like we forgot. No one asked about us,” he said. .
Hussein said sharing videos on social media platforms has helped make people aware of the problems they are facing.
In the age of social media, mobile phones allow people to sit thousands of miles away and witness the horrors of war. It helps families trapped on the battlefield to get updates on the ground situation.
“It helped keep our parents up to date because there was a lot of fake news out there. We presented the truth through social media,” Hussein said.
Moreover, social media helped people to adjust themselves when moving away.
For student coordinator Simesh Shasidharan, it was difficult to manage a team of 800 Indian students stranded in Kiev. However, with the help of a telegram group, he was able to deliver and forward the necessary information to the group. This helped him keep track of the students.
“Everywhere there was bombing and I had 800 students with us. We divided them into groups of 40-50 people and each group was run by two senior students. The students were scattered because there were four paths removed.”
“The internet has helped us coordinate among our students. We told them which route to go and where not to go. We formed a telegram group of 800 people and I kept them informed of train times,” said Shasidharan.
Social media platforms also helped students raise their issues with the embassy.
“With the help of social media, we have complained that the embassy was not active and they became active. I was in touch with the embassy through social media. Social media helped us to inform the world about our situation,” said Shashidharan.
Kanishka, a first-year medical student who arrived safely in India last week, said those who had previously fled Ukraine had helped them find their way through social media.
“We used a WhatsApp group to coordinate among ourselves. All evacuation news and Indian embassy updates were forwarded to the group. At the time of evacuation, we were asked to reach our own border Has helped us by providing, ”he said.
Not only civilians, but also Ukrainian officials, including President Volodymyr Zelensky, are using social media to dispel Russian media propaganda. Zelensky posted several videos showing him along with other government officials and said that Ukrainian leaders had not fled Kyiv as soon as Russian forces entered the capital.
Ukrainian officials also run social media to launch a drive to recruit foreign and local hackers to join the war.
However, there were other aspects of social media that students had to deal with – trolling and fake news.
“We were badly trolled because people sitting thousands of miles away were abusing us to study abroad,” Hussein said.
In the fast-growing situation of war, it is very difficult to distinguish fake news from real news.
“There was fake news all over the internet and since we were already panicking, it has raised concerns,” Hussein said.