Monday, February 6, 2012 saw history being made as a mammoth crowd came to see and listen to Richard Stallman talk on ‘Free Software, Freedom and Education.’ The event, organised by Free Software Foundation, Tamil Nadu, part of Free Software Movement of India saw over 3000 people at the SAC auditorium at IIT-Madras
After the event, students at IIT-M tried to remember the last time they had seen such crowds at their institution. When A.P.J Abdul Kalam had come to the SAC auditorium, the hall had just about been filled. On February 6, we at FSFTN and outsiders watched in amazement as the hall was not only overflowing but at least one big group who had come to listen to Richard Stallman was forced to wait outside as there were not enough seats.
Students, teachers, activists and software professionals – all of them came to listen to the RMS . And the massive cheer that greeted him when he got on the state was a sign of things to come as the crowd enthusiastically listened for three hours as he held forth on a variety of topics. Thegreatest applause of course came when he spoke up about Facebook condemning it as a surveillance engine. The night before the event, during an interaction with the media in the presence of FSFTN volunteers, RMS had powerfully spoken about the problems of using terms such as Open Source and FOSS while referring to Free Software. On Monday too, he explained the history of the movement and the importance of terminology, say in the case of using GNU/Linux instead of Linux. And of course there was the hyper-cool St. IGNUcius avatar!
But the event was also as much about the crowds and the volunteers who managed them. People flooded in from all around the city. Some journalists were even comparing it to political rallies. And on top of every situation was the dedicated team of volunteers from so many colleges over the city. Some of them had even stayed over the previous night and helped finalise arrangements. The best thing was this was the first time most volunteers were working with FSFTN. Even so, the coordination between everyone was perfect. And the magnitude of the task was immense, considering that students from nearly 30 colleges were there as were at least 20 buses. And personally for us at FSFTN, what was gratifying was also the considerable interest shown by participants in the Community Computing Centre at Mylapore, a project we see as being vital to the development of free software in education.
So finally, kudos to the volunteers and participants of ‘RMS in Chennai – 2012’, definitely one of the biggest programmes the free software community has seen so far.
Some news reports
Preparatory photos – https://www.flickr.com/photos/133959926@N05/sets/72157657988330058
Entire set of photos – https://www.flickr.com/photos/133959926@N05/sets/72157657973970888
Happy to be part of the the team which organised the mamooth event 🙂