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Khan Market Gang to Chowkidar Chor Hai — words & phrases that dominated politics in 2019

Phrases such as 'Alia Malia Jamalia', 'Godi Media' and 'Urban Naxals' have been around for a while, but they got new life in a 2019 filled with elections, and Pulwama-Balakot.

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Commie, Sanghi, CAA CAA Chhee Chhee, Chor, Feku, Pappu, Libtard — if you closed your eyes and just listened, you’d probably think you were in an elementary school playground.

But no, this is how grown men and women speak, our dear politicians speak, in public, on social media, every day.

Who said what about whom and when? Here’s a glossary of the words and phrases that have become part of India’s political lexicon in 2019. Some have been around for a while, but thanks to an exhausting combination of Lok Sabha elections, Pulwama-Balakot, the removal of Article 370, the Ayodhya verdict and NRC and CAA, they have made a comeback and look unlikely to go anywhere.

Alia Malia Jamalia: This one is Home Minister Amit Shah’s favourite. But it’s not his own. PM Modi first used the dog-whistle phrase in 2002, to refer to Muslims. Shah has since appropriated it, using it repeatedly, in 2016, 2017 and more than once in 2019.

Just a few days ago, in the context of the Citizenship Amendment Act, Shah used it again, this time to refer to Pakistanis. Oh, and once, during a rally in UP, he added his own twist to it, saying the Samajwadi Party was full of “Ateeqs, Azams, Afzals and Mukhtars”.

The Gangs: As 2019 approached 2020, protests saw gangs of ordinary people run amok on the streets of India against CAA, NRC. A whole other bunch of them were, meanwhile, endangering the drawing rooms and TV news studios.

There’s the ‘Tukde Tukde Gang’ born in JNU, the ‘Award Wapsi Gang’ born in writer Nayantara Sahgal’s house and the ‘Khan Market Gang’ born in the Delhi bookstore, Bahri Sons. All three are considered left-liberal, dangerous or excessively privileged by the likes of TV anchors Arnab Goswami (Republic TV) and Navika Kumar (Times Now) and even the Prime Minister: The ‘Khan Market Gang’ received a dishonorable mention by him in a May interview with The Indian Express.

And all three are equally dangerous to India’s majority religious community, armed as they are with M.Phil dissertations (because, don’t you know, they never actually finish their Ph.D), signed letters to the PM and a flat white from Perch. Scary.

Also read: 5 Bollywood movies that should not have been made this decade

Urban Naxals and Urban Nazis: Filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri coined the term Urban Naxals in 2018 to describe the above-mentioned gangs and their friends, plus anyone who says his movies are rubbish. That’s a lot of people (mainly because his list of movies includes Chocolate and Buddha In A Traffic Jam). It became the preferred description for the social activists who have been imprisoned in relation to the Bhima-Koregaon case, like Sudha Bhardwaj.

However, another filmmaker, Anurag Kashyap, recently came up with a rejoinder to this when he took to Twitter to call the PM an ‘Urban Nazi’ and shared a video of Hitler alongside.

Godi Media and Presstitute: NDTV’s Ravish Kumar, seen by many as the hero of the above-mentioned gangs, used ‘Godi Media’ to hit out at journalists who he believes are propaganda tools of the Modi government. You know, the kind who will ask Rahul Gandhi to answer for the alleged scams of his father and sins of his grandfather, but will never dare to ask the ruling party any questions. Because everyone knows Modi doesn’t like to answer any questions except about how he likes his mangoes.

In a similar vein, another popular term is presstitutes, popularised in the Indian context by former Army Chief General V.K. Singh. He has also helpfully tweeted explanations of it.

CAA CAA Chhee Chhee: Never let it be said that Didi holds back on expressing how she really feels. In a speech against the Citizenship Amendment Act just recently, Mamata Banerjee gave all of us a brief moment of merriment when she let loose with what sounded like a playschool game or a scatological nursery rhyme.

Chowkidar Chor Hai: A phrase that Rahul Gandhi coined for the 17th Lok Sabha elections, it was a reference to the allegations of corruption in the Modi government on the Rafale deal. It failed to stick, of course, but that’s another story.

Modi often referred to himself as the chowkidar of India, and for the Lok Sabha elections changed his Twitter profile name to ‘Chowkidar Narendra Modi’ as much a reference to his humble upbringing as to his image as one who will watch against corruption in India.

Promptly, anyone who was anybody in the BJP changed their Twitter handles to include the word chowkidar. As much as it backfired on the Congress, it also caused some embarrassment and confusion for the late Sushma Swaraj, when many US publications thought it was part of her name.

Termites: Most of us know of termites as those insects that eat away at our bookshelves or furniture, but literary-minded Amit Shah used it as a metaphor for illegal Muslim immigrants from Bangladesh, earlier this year. At a rally in West Bengal, he stated that if the BJP returned to power, it would throw out the “termites”.

He also tweeted that all infiltrators except “Buddha, Hindus and Sikhs” would be removed from India — a tweet that, now, in the backlash against the NRC and CAA, has been deleted.

Also read: Sonam Kapoor & Salman Khan to Alia Bhatt & Sridevi — worst & best of Bollywood this decade


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  1. LEFT LIBERALS only exist in India. The Old Soviets with all the satellite states and China were and are pure Left.

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