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Free thinker challenges a filmmaker’s narrative of Urban Naxals

Kolkata: Filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri, perhaps wanted his share of fun, when he tweeted early this morning seeking some intelligent young minds to directly message him a list of urban Naxals – a word coined for people (intellectuals and activists) who are a voice of dissent in the country.

The filmmaker, who made it to the headlines following the controversy surrounding his last release Buddha In a Traffic Jam, has been scathing about any activist criticizing the establishment. Recently, he even penned a book, by the same name, Urban Naxal, and is even directing a film on the same. In many of his essays and videos, Agnihotri has portrayed  urban Naxals as an invisible threat to the internal security of the Indian state. He claims that his book has even been appreciated by the home minister Rajnath Singh.

The Urban Naxal narrative has been doing the rounds for the past couple of years. However, the term got formally used for the first time when Maharashtra Police arrested five rights activists, comprising human rights activists, lawyer and journalist for their alleged connection with Bhima Koregaon violence. Following their arrest, Agnihotri tweeted seeking the help of a particular right wing activist to compile a list of Urban Naxals for him.

When it boomeranged…

Agnihotri, who is quite active on Twitter, perhaps had never expected the entire thing to boomerang. Speaking to eNewsroom, the filmmaker when asked about him being on the receiving end on Twitter, he first said, “It’s been kind of a funny day for me with all these people actually creating a list of people who are of liberal ideology. I think that is a bit stupid.” He then quickly added, “On a serious note, let me reiterate, urban Naxalism is a reality that we need to accept. Urban Naxals are the real threat to Indian state as they are working to get funds for the Naxals or Maoists or separatists in the rural belts of India. Just see, how these people wiped off the Congress government in Chattisgarh. They want to create a civil war-like situation in India as they are the ones who defend the stone pelters and jihadis.”

However, Pratik Sinha, founder of Alt News, who started the #MeTooUrbanNaxal hashtag on Twitter maintained that he was initially upset with Republic TV hounding the activists and that his first tweet was related to that. “It was in my second tweet where I began this #MeTooUrbanNaxal in response to a tweet of this filmmaker who has earlier tagged me at least twice as an urban Naxal. So, I thought why not volunteer for the list of urban Naxals that he wanted some young gun to compile for him.”

#MeTooUrbanNaxal was aimed at destroying ‘urban Naxal’ narrative

Explaining to eNewsroom the need to start this hashtag, Sinha said, “When I first began it, I didn’t know that it would trend at number one on Twitter. But when I began this, I had only one intention, which was to make urban naxal a standing joke, just as anti-national has become a joke. Nowadays, who takes the anti-national tag seriously; most of us pass it off as a joke.”

Perhaps, he has a point. Given the fervour with which the #MeTooUrbanNaxal took off on Twitter perhaps, left Agnihotri a bit disoriented with the number of volunteers he got for the wish list of his. Defending his stand, he took to Twitter and said, “Hey @squintneon you and your team of committed youth may not have to do any work as people are volunteering to be a part of the list on their own. If nothing else, you will have a list of stupid liberals by the end of the day.”

So what is urban Naxalism?

Well, we all know about the Naxalite movement, which began in West Bengal’s Naxalbari, but what is this urban Naxalism all about?

Agnihotri, who off late has emerged as self-claimed expert on this issue, explained, “These are the educated intellectuals, stationed in the cities, who do the planning. They are the ones who are waging a war against the state in the name of bringing about a revolution. You, of course, know how it works. It’s documented that these people are the ones who have been plotting to kill our Prime Minister. They have masqueraded themselves as intellectuals and activist.” But aren’t they fighting for the rights of the underprivileged?  “And what about the human rights of the jawans they kill?,” asks Agnihotri.

However, his urban Naxal Twitter pal, Sinha had a different take, “The word urban Naxal has been coined specially to undermine the voices of dissent. There could be some Naxal sympathizers in the cities, but that doesn’t mean that they are urban Naxals. Speaking for the rights of the underprivileged and the exploited is definitely not urban Naxalism, especially when one is doing that in a legal way as in the case of many who have been arrested on Tuesday.”

He then counters the claim of people wanting to attack the PM, by adding, “We all know about the fake encounters that took place in Gujarat. The police have mentioned that those killed had been planning to kill Narendra Modi, the then CM of Gujarat. But we all know the truth, and just because the police documents in their FIRs show that certain people intended to kill the PM doesn’t make them killers or urban Naxal. Giving legal aid to those in need doesn’t make a person a Naxal but an intellectual or a human right activist.”

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