Thursday, 29 September, 2022
HomeOpinionFor Left-liberals, winning hashtag battles with #MeTooUrbanNaxal seems to be enough

For Left-liberals, winning hashtag battles with #MeTooUrbanNaxal seems to be enough

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To own abuses like trophies on social media has become a predictable strategy for India’s Left-liberals.

Soon after the condemnable arrest of five activists for alleged ‘Maoist’ links early Tuesday morning, the provocative hashtag #MeTooUrbanNaxal succeeded in trending on social media for a few hours. Winning the trends game on Twitter seems to have become the modern-day equivalent of winning an election. And the Left-liberals were quick to declare victory.

Unfortunately for our Twitter warriors, forget elections, even arguments can’t be won on Twitter, or through trending hashtags. When you lose an election or an argument against the BJP or Prime Minister Narendra Modi, floating a hashtag like #MeTooUrbanNaxal or #AntiNational or posting pictures of beef biryani appear to be the default options for India’s Left-liberals. If only that was the way to win hearts, minds and shares in today’s India, BJP’s IT cell head Amit Malviya would be the greatest victor of them all!

The arrests naturally sparked angry reactions from several sections, particularly the Left-liberals. But they triggered not just a war of words, but the now-mandatory war of hashtags as well.

The state and its ideological cheerleaders framed this as a case of ‘Urban Naxals’— a somewhat vague and amorphous term to denote all those who sympathise with and, thus, constitute the overground network for the radical Left – finally facing state action. As a mark of solidarity with those arrested, the Left-liberal did what has now become a predictable fad, which is floating their own hashtag.

To rewind the sequence of events a bit, as the arrests took place, academics, civil rights activists and a large section of the Left argued that all dissent cannot be criminalised. The manner of arrests was labelled as draconian and undemocratic given the evidence to directly link those raided and arrested with the Bhima-Koregaon violence appeared thin. Till this point, the Left-liberal seemed to have the upper hand. But here the debate assumed a different direction.

In a provocative, rebuke-worthy and clearly dangerous invitation, filmmaker and BJP sympathiser Vivek Agnihotri, who has written a book on ‘Urban Naxals’, issued an invitation on Twitter for people to name all those they thought belonged to this category. It is here that the Left and liberal opinion makers lost the plot too. They began their own Twitter hashtag #MeTooUrbanNaxal to own the label. It was almost their way of asserting that they owned not just the tag but also the politics associated with it.

Also read: Arrest of activists gives us a glimpse of what a Putinised India might look like

If Agnihotri’s menacing move was problematic, so was the #MeTooUrbanNaxal hashtag. Anyone with any respect for the Indian constitutional framework, political system, law and liberties cannot be associated with Naxalism. The sooner people break out of delusions on this, the better. Let there be no doubt, the Communist Party of India (Maoist) represents not a progressive but a reactionary challenge.

The worrying aspect about the Left-liberals’ criticism of the BJP government is precisely that – the tendency to give in to an utter loss of perspective and balance when it comes to this government. They do not know how to make an issue-based, nuanced criticism of the Modi regime. The government’s diplomatic failures with Pakistan, or any demonetisation news, are shared by them gleefully. A critique of Modi’s foreign policy can even go to the extent of hoping that the Chinese give India a bloody nose at Doklam. And a critique of the current arrests and raids can go to the extent of owning the Naxal tag.

To own abuses like trophies seem to have become a predictable strategy for the Left-liberals – a few examples being ‘anti-national’ and ‘sickular’.

When the fashionable critics on Twitter own the label and proudly say that they are ‘Urban Naxals’, do they understand what they are doing? They are undermining precisely the liberal foundations of Indian democracy, which they claim to uphold. They are legitimising the Maoists. And they are doing exactly what the far-Right wants them to do – get boxed into a corner, which can be easily categorised as anti-national and subversive.

In their criticism of the Modi regime, they also seem to forget that the arrests of all five activists were made under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, brought in not by the BJP, but by the Congress-led UPA regime, and misused by both.

Also read: ‘Urban Naxals’ is BJP’s sinister plot promoted by its Urban Idiots- Jignesh Mevani

More importantly, there is complete myopia about what really matters in a democracy. Like it or not, Modi’s BJP is winning election after election, is currently in power at the Centre and more than half of the 29 states. The BJP knows the importance of social media, and its rather vicious troll army is no secret. However, the party knows that getting an upper hand on social media is a mere tool, and definitely not the end of its battle. Needless to say, winning elections is in no way a license to behave in an undemocratic or a high-handed manner, something the Modi government seems to have become adept at. Any government’s actions can and must be challenged.

For the Left-liberals, however, it seems pushing their hashtags and winning the battle of numbers – retweets, of course, not votes – is the way to defeat the BJP and its ideology. By that logic, the BJP can claim a victory-a-day!

It is nobody’s case that social media shouldn’t be used as a platform by ideologies of all hues to argue, debate and discuss. But if the Left-liberals really want to meaningfully score a point over the BJP-RSS stable, it can’t be through a war of hashtags. Unfortunately, the Left-liberals are in no position to win a war at the hustings except, of course, in the coveted Jawaharlal Nehru University.

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  1. surprised by open bias by media…the lady called swathi chaturvedi wrote a book with listing some individual name as her book she made list of troll according to her wish.and channels like ndtv flashed some indivudual names as troll as per their wish….same way agnihotri did list of urban naxal as per his wish…media and section of joiurnalsit from ndtv to sagarika celebrated the view of swati chaturvedi when she made individual as trol…but same journalist , media are abusing rish agnihotri for his view and list on urban naxal…itself here proved that section of journalist are biased at core and they abuse and threaten any one if they expore the doiuble standard of journalist…

  2. I think, by owning up to being Naxals, many of these fine people of good conscience were mocking the effort to create a bogey. I don’t think a single Indian has been killed by “ Urban Naxals “. There is a long raging battle in the Red Corridor, but it is being contained. Despite difficulties and constraints, the state is trying to bring development to these regions, as the best, most humane antidote to extremism. 2. It is possible there are city based people who provide resources, even weapons, to Naxals located in the deep interior. That is for the police and the security establishment to monitor and deal with. However, sympathy for the tribals, efforts to highlight their condition, offer them legal aid, all these are legitimate functions for civil society, Blurring distinctions that ought to be respected seems to be taking place.

  3. There is no moral equivalence, what Vivek Agnihotri did was criminal. He asked for preparing a hit list of left liberals and subsequently posted the list, thus endangering lives of the people on this list. Least of we forget people left liberals people like Gauri Lankesh, Kalburgi, Dabholkar, Pansare and countless others have been killed by the right wing fringe for being left liberal. The author also does not understand the concept of free speech, there is nothing criminal about #MeTooUrbanNaxal hashtag.

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