Ever since the Pune Police arrested five activist-intellectuals: Gautam Navlakha, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, Sudha Bhardwaj and Varavara Rao, and accused them of being “Urban Naxals” conspiring against the Modi regime, the term -“Urban Naxal”- suddenly became a popular political identity from slur, used so far by demagogues of the ruling Hindutva fascist bloc to vilify their foes, especially those leaning towards the left.
Suddenly, the social media world woke up to a new hashtag, #MeTooUrbanNaxal, which became a viral trend as more and more disgruntled intellectuals, critical thinkers, common netizens and the progressive section of the Indian urban middle-class dropped their preconceived reservations about the “Naxal” identity and started calling themselves “Urban Naxal” to counter the paranoid Hindutva regime and the xenophobia spread by its servile mainstream media.
The new hashtag #MeTooUrbanNaxal trended well on social media, ever since Narendra Modi’s puppet semi-porn filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri asked his followers to compile a list of “Urban Naxals” so that he can take some steps against them. Agnihotri made these comments at a time when the nation was raging with fury due to the fascist assault on the freedom of expression by the Modi regime and its puppets.
People tagged themselves as “Urban Naxals” on social media and dared Vivek Agnihotri to enlist them in his hit list. The uproar of the opponents of the Modi regime, including a section of the liberal democrats, who often loathe the ideology of Naxalbari-inspired peasants’ struggle, was quite unexpected for both Vivek Agnihotri and his RSS handlers. They had to retreat and seek shelter in their filthy holes, even when the battle cry came from the harmless quarters.
Prominent writer Arundhati Roy wrote a column in Huffington Post on the “Urban Naxal” paranoia of the ruling classes and the BJP’s political benefit reaping. She played a crucial role in building up the #MeTooUrbanNaxal movement braving the vitriol and threats of the Sangh Parivar and its goons. Arundhati Roy rightly showed how the BJP and the Modi regime will, on one hand, use the “Urban Naxal” hysteria to incite a mob of paranoid Hindutva-incensed feral chauvinists against the people who are fighting on behalf of the poor and the exploited, on the other hand, use the propaganda of a purported “Urban Naxal” plot using concocted tales and evidence to play the victim card and divert the people’s attention from the burning issues of unemployment, agrarian crisis, etc.
In such a situation, when an incessant barrage of propaganda and counter-propaganda are colliding with each other, it becomes hard for a political novice to understand the driving force of this war of ideologies and battle of verbiages. What’s the meaning of “Urban Naxal”? Who happens to be an “Urban Naxal”? Is it a good or bad thing to be an “Urban Naxal”? Why should one be an “Urban Naxal” in the present scenario? All such questions became viral among those who didn’t know about the Naxalbari movement or what being a “Naxal” or “Urban Naxal” means.
This makes it important for us to address these questions and elaborate on the genesis of the term “Urban Naxal” and its implications in present-day politics.
The term Naxal (or Naxalite) is derived from Naxalbari, a small village in the Terai plateau of Darjeeling district of West Bengal, where a peasants’ rebellion broke out in 1967 under the conscious and visionary leadership of a communist revolutionary named Charu Mazumdar, who later became a globally-acclaimed communist leader.
In Naxalbari, Charu Mazumdar implemented the lessons of the Chinese Revolution led by Mao Zedong and thereby he ignited a prairie fire, called the Naxalbari Movement, which became synonymous with the armed communist revolutionary struggle in India. CPI(M-L), the party that Mazumdar founded later in 1969, splintered into many factions after he was brutally murdered by the state in 1972; while some factions continue to uphold his legacy and politics, others discarded him and rejected his politics altogether.
Since then, any movement or resistance struggle that draws inspiration from Naxalbari, or any struggle organised by any of the numerous splinter groups of the CPI(M-L) established by Charu Mazumdar, are termed as “Naxal” and the members, supporters, activists of these splinter organisations are either called “Naxalites” or “Naxals”; however, members, activists or supporters of the banned CPI(Maoist) are called often called “Maoists” by the press and the term “Naxal” is used interchangeably at times to identify them with the Naxalbari movement.
The term “Urban Naxal” is an oxymoron; it’s rooted in the vilification of intellectuals opposing the notorious Operation Green Hunt by the former home minister and a Congress leader, P Chidambaram, who once worked as an advocate and a board member of the mining giant Vedanta, which has large stakes in the government’s effort to grab land for mining in Chhattisgarh and other states rich with mineral resources. P Chidambaram is now accused of being part of a large scam and is out of jail.
P Chidambaram and the coterie of then Congress President Sonia Gandhi used the term “Maoist sympathisers” to denote those intellectuals who are against the Indian government’s brutal anti-tribal war on behalf of big corporate bodies and mining giants – who have been desperate to plunder the mineral resources beneath the soil of tribal-majority areas of central and eastern parts of India.
During his tenure as the home minister, P Chidambaram trained his guns at the intellectuals and threatened them with dire consequences should they oppose the UPA II government’s war against the tribals. Not only the Congress but BJP leaders from Vinay Katiyar to Arun Jaitley, lend their support to Chidambaram and criticised those who opposed the Congress government’s war against the people of the country.
Though the Congress President Rahul Gandhi is now criticising the Pune Police action against the five dissenting intellectuals and activists, ironically, Arun Ferreira was first arrested under the UPA regime headed by his own party in 2007 on false charges of abetting Maoist rebellion. He later stepped out of prison in 2012, only after facing horrible torture for years. His book, Colours of the Cage, is a best seller in the non-fiction category and vividly describes the inhuman condition in which prisoners and undertrials are kept in jails built by the British colonial rulers and still managed according to colonial standards.
The Congress-led UPA also arrested Vernon Gonsalves on charges of being a Maoist leader and threw him behind the bars. Gautam Navlakha was detained at Srinagar Airport in 2011 when he went there to meet the victims of state repression. The Andhra Pradesh Police, following the Congress government’s diktat, arrested Varavara Rao in 2005 along with other writers, accusing them of supporting the Maoist movement.
Arun Jaitley used the term “Half Maoist” to denote the supporters of tribal rights, human rights and opponents of the government. In a 2015 rally during the Delhi assembly election, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called Arvind Kejriwal a “Naxal”, even when almost all hues of Naxalbari-inspired factions equally condemn the AAP and its founder as agents of imperialism.
Since 2016, soon after the JNU fiasco, the BJP, in order to sustain its chauvinistic propaganda against left-wing activists and intellectuals, intensified labelling opponents with the sticker of “Urban Naxal” to broaden the scope of their persecution later. Manoj Tiwari, a horrible Bhojpuri singer-cum-actor-turned-politician, who now heads the Delhi BJP in a strategic move to woo the large Bihari population of the city, called Arvind Kejriwal an “Urban Naxal” in 2016. Then onwards, the term became synonymous with any left-leaning, critical and vocal opponent of the Modi regime and its policy of Hindutva fascism.
Despite such political tycoons of the Indian fascist camp firing the “Urban Naxal” salvo at times targeting their opponents, no one could match the tenacity and the vehemence with which flop filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri, a lapdog of the Modi regime and its foreign funders, used and popularised the term. It was Vivek Agnihotri who made “Urban Naxal” a happening thing.
Starting with his article in the RSS-supported Swarajya Magazine in May 2017, Vivek Agnihotri stamped any critic opposing the Modi regime and its communal divisive agenda as an “Urban Naxal”. He described, like a parable, who “Urban Naxals” are, what they do and how they do it. It’s not surprising that the state agencies, including the police, are using the terminology and concept founded by a flop filmmaker cum social media joker to persecute the political enemies of the Modi regime.
His book on the same title was released soon after this article was published and though in literary standards the book is a trash, it found popularity among the urban, upper-caste Hindutva fanatics and mediocre Modi lackeys. “Urban Naxal” started walking on the streets of Delhi and Mumbai, and the paranoia reached a higher stage.
Sooner, the term “Urban Naxal” was juxtaposed with the Arnab Goswami-invented “Tukde Tukde Gang”, which means the gang seeking Balkanisation of India, often used to denote the Jawaharlal Nehru University students who protested against the hanging of Afzal Guru, the civil society activists who have been supporting the students in their just struggle and the activists associated with Dalit rights, minority rights, trade union movements, etc.
These two new political terms have been used interchangeably by the Hindutva fascist propaganda channels like Zee News, Republic TV and the Times Now. The RSS mouthpiece Organiser also used “Urban Naxal” in an article published in June 2018, in a bid to popularise the term among its supporter base in order to use it extensively during the assembly elections in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan later this year, and during the 2019 Lok Sabha election to attack the opponents.
Picking the cue from the Organiser, Arnab Goswami alleged that Sudha Bhardwaj is an “Urban Naxal”, which forced the activist to file a case against the channel, but ironically, it also resulted into her own arrest as Arnab Goswami and Rajiv Chandrashekar, the owner of Republic TV, have more clout on the state machinery than a human rights lawyer and trade union organiser. She was arrested to shun her away from chasing Arnab Goswami and exposing him in the court. Since her arrest, Arnab Goswami has increased the tempo of his slander mongering against the civil rights activists who oppose his masters.
Using the term “Urban Naxal”, which bears the signature of a five-decade-old communist rebellion, the Modi regime and its coterie are trying to target all hues of non-parliamentary, revolutionary and radical left movements, and not just the banned CPI(Maoist). The attack is launched on the forces that hold the crimson banner and talk about combatting Hindutva fascism. The attack is launched to arrest and torture key figures and organisers of the anti-fascist struggle so that no massive political struggle can be built.
“Urban Naxal” or the “Naxal” in it is a safety valve for the Modi regime, as the Hindutva fascist camp knows that an accusation of being inspired by a radical communist movement will turn away the upper-caste elites and urban middle-class activists from any anti-fascist initiative. The flavour of a violent revolution is indeed a taboo for the privileged section of the Indian society stratified into antagonistic class and caste lines. If the privileged section of the society isn’t part of any mass movement, then the RSS and the BJP will be relieved, as the participation of the poor and the downtrodden masses in a movement will not give it any media attention in India.
For Narendra Modi, his sycophants and the upper-caste elites and urban middle class, who support the Modi regime for its rabid Hindutva hate mongering, pro-foreign capital stand, corporate servility and anti-poor ideology, anyone leaning to the left, expressing dissent, being non-conformist and critically analysing the Indian society, questioning the wrongdoings of the regime, opposing the measures of the government, etc. happens to be a sworn enemy, and they support violent persecution of such people. The label of “Naxal” or “Urban Naxal” for that matter provides a justification for any state repression.
The Modi regime is consistently propagating about a purported “Urban Naxal” plot to assassinate the Prime Minister to create a sympathy wave throughout the nation. It’s also preparing the grounds for the RSS-led Hindutva fascism-incensed thugs to launch a large-scale attack on the radical leftwing activists in the cities. The RSS is preparing the context for the attack by spreading malicious propaganda against the leftwing forces and it has also started its preparation for a nationwide bestial attack to pulverise the people’s resistance against Hindutva fascism.
Soon after the arrest of the five activists, the RSS organised a seminar on “Urban Naxals” to build up a counter-narrative against the agitation spreading all over India against the fascist rule of Narendra Modi. In the seminar, the upper-caste Brahmanical supporters of the RSS used their rhetoric mongering and propaganda against the people’s struggle for justice and equality by terming everything that goes against the Modi regime as “anti-national”.
“Urban Naxal” isn’t a sole allegation that’s used to hound the opponents of the Modi regime. Now even being an “anti-fascist”, which happens to be the official political standpoint of almost all parties, except the RSS-led Hindutva fascist camp, in India and abroad, is considered as a criminal offence. An allegation of being an “anti-fascist” is used to unleash repression on political activists.
Recently, Ujjwala Pawar, the public prosecutor presenting the case against the five accused activists in Pune, told the court that the police have found that the five are members of an “anti-fascist” front that wants to topple the Modi government. The police charge sheet spoke volumes about why being “anti-fascist” is against the law of the land and why the people arrested should be punished for standing against fascism.
When being an anti-fascist is a crime in India, when fascism is normalised by years of propaganda whitewashing the crimes of the RSS, and even the crimes committed by Hitler’s Nazi regime in Germany, then it’s obvious that the government of the day will use false flag attacks, incidents that resemble the burning of the Reichstag, to hound its opponents and crush them. It’s not paranoia to anticipate that the Modi regime can take any illegal steps to accuse the opposition and build-up support in favour of its tyrannical rule. We must not forget Godhra, which paved the way for Narendra Modi to rise as a political star in India.
Under the rule of Narendra Modi, the Indian ruling classes want to weed out all dissenters and rights activists from the political theatre because they are not only raising questions on the modus operandi of the government, they are also uniting and organising the downtrodden people by inspiring them with the concept of resistance against corporate loot and plunder.
From the Maoist guerillas in the countryside and forests of central and eastern India to different trade unions in industrial areas, from farmer organisations in the rural hinterland to the students and youth fighting against the government’s anti-people policies, strong resistance is growing everywhere against the system that Modi and his coterie have consolidated.
As resistance is forming at the grassroots, where discontent against the Modi regime is brewing vigorously, thus, to curb it and suppress the people’s agitation for change, the “Urban Naxal” tag will be used arbitrarily by the government and it’s certain that more and more people will be targeted in the days to come. Journalists, trade union organisers, farmer leaders, social justice activists, etc. may face the music sooner or later.
However, despite their attempt to incite mass hysteria over the issue of “Urban Naxals”, despite their attempt to create a paranoia over a purported “Naxal” threat to the Prime Minister, the Hindutva fascists and the Indian ruling classes aren’t successful in winning popular support for the persecution of critical thinkers.
The common people, i.e. the poor workers, peasants and toiling masses didn’t despise the “Naxal”, rather, unlike the urban elites or middle-class, the Naxalbari movement and the revolutionary ideas it propagated have a large number of takers among the poor Dalits and tribals in the hinterland of India. While the middle-class Babudom supporter may loathe the identity of being a “Naxal”, the poor didn’t mind bearing that identity in their struggle for existence and political power.
Vivek Agnihotri or Arnab Goswami may try to demean the “Naxal” with tags like “Urban Naxal” and “Tukde tukde gang”, they may get a host of upper-caste elites and middle-class wannabes supporting their libellous campaigning in favour of big corporate houses and the Modi regime, they can’t proselytise the firmly determined peasant who wants to fight for political power, they can’t influence the workers who are determined to establish their own rule and earn respect.
As “Urban Naxal” campaign backfired on the conspirators and the Modi regime, they will try new methods of demeaning the opposition before the 2019 general election. For the Modi regime, it’s crucial that the genuine people’s opposition is neutralised and the free thinkers are gagged. However, in the 21st century, no assault on the people by the autocratic regime will go unanswered and the people will definitely defeat the tyrannical Modi regime through their perseverance and courage. The intellectual puppets of the regime won’t be able to divert people’s attention or create mass hysteria for long. The end of Hindutva fascism is quite close.
An avid reader and a merciless political analyst. When not writing then either reading something, debating something or sipping espresso with a dash of cream. Street photographer. Tweets as @la_muckraker