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Last Updated: Fri, Jan 14, 2011 20:00 hrs

As Wikipedia celebrates its 10th anniversary, Indian Wikipedians have another reason to cheer

While the English Wikipedia has 3.2 million articles, its Hindi counterpart — the most widely spoken Indian language — has just 60,000. "You can see it either as a big gap or untapped potential for Indian languages," says Bishakha Dutta, the first Indian trustee on the Wikimedia Foundation board. A documentary filmmaker and journalist, Dutta wants to see more and more Indian languages on Wikipedia. So far, over 20 Indian languages have been registered and 20 more are in the incubation phase.

A global non-profit organisation started by Jimmy Wales a decade ago, Wikimedia has several projects — Wikibooks, Wikiquote, Wikiversity, Wikibooks, Wikisource — but Wikipedia is the most popular. For Indian Wikipedians, there is more reason to cheer than the 10th anniversary of Wikipedia. The India chapter of Wikipedia was registered this week. Currently available in more than 275 languages, Wikipedia’s aim will be to encourage people to use and contribute in their own language.

"Although Wikipedians in India have been contributing to the movement for several years, a formal body makes it easy to partner with government bodies and language forums from different states," says Arun Ramarathnam, president, Wikipedia’s India chapter. Bangalore-based Ramarathnam’s fascination with Wikipedia began when the tsunami hit in 2004. "I saw how information on the catastrophe and relief action grew within a few hours on Wikipedia," he recalls. "People are most comfortable in their own language in smaller towns. We want them to extend that experience on Wikipedia, too," says the IT professional.

Encouraging the multilingual drive in India isn’t going to be easy. "Networking, getting more and more people and spreading the word is on my agenda," says Dutta, who feels she needs to get more women to contribute to Wikipedia. Currently, only 13 per cent of the global 100,000 volunteers are women.

Each English article is edited 19 times on average. But, as Dutta says, the movement breaks the myth that only experts can add information to a topic. "Rules and principles lend method to a process that would otherwise have been madness," says Dutta. Everything that’s edited and posted on the website needs to have verification and a neutral point of view. When she attends the 10th anniversary celebrations at Seagull Arts and Media Resource Centre in Kolkata and makes a presentation about Wikipedia, she’ll share it with fellow Wikipedians, who can pick relevant information. Wikipedians’ rule "Assume good faith" is obviously standing them in good stead.

Prerna Raturi is a Kolkata-based writer

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