Narendra Modi
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Anyone whose work revolves around analysing, questioning and maintaining accountability of the government is now an ‘urban Naxal’ and an ‘enemy’.

Search the words ‘urban Naxals’ and you’ll be bombarded with links from right-wing publications, outlining the detailed modus operandi and motivations of what is, they say, the greatest threat to the integrity of modern India.

The breathless, angry tone of the writers will make you wonder if everyone around you has some sort of secret anti-India agenda. Your friendly university student, your neighbourhood journalist, your kid’s college professor, the chirpy activist who talks to you about her NGO work – everyone, apparently, is an urban Naxal.

See a common thread there? A pattern? Somehow, anyone whose work revolves around analysing, questioning, and maintaining accountability of the government is now the enemy. S/he is lambasted across social media, held to rabid public courts on prime time ‘debates’, and reduced to a simplified and caricaturised ‘enemy’. The wildest, most fantastical comparisons to Syria and Egypt are made, and the complex social conflicts that have defined India since inception – those of caste, class, and their intersections – are reduced to a ‘with India/against India’ binary.

India doesn’t have the greatest record for respecting minority voices. This is a fact. Another equally valid fact is that at least in theory, it has always tried to be inclusive and accommodating. While it has often failed (with disastrous consequences), it has, on paper, not actively endorsed the silencing of dissent. Smriti Irani launched Vivek Agnihotri’s book with a glowing endorsement of his belief that JNU and Jadavpur University are breeding grounds for anti-national sentiment because they refused to screen his movie Buddha in a Traffic Jam.

People like Vivek Agnihotri and those propagating the myth of the ‘urban Naxal’ seem to forget that dissent is the very essence of a democracy. The groups protesting historical injustice, demanding reparations, and creating avenues for the voices to be heard aren’t trying to break India up. They’re trying to make a country they call home a better home for themselves. It is an important, fundamental exercise that pushes the boundaries of the limited social spaces that we have afforded minorities, and helps us reconfigure how we can be a more inclusive country. It’s an effort in making a better India – not a lesser one.

This government has maintained a relentless, brutal attack against any intellectualism in the country. From the insidious attacks against the autonomy of JNU to the arbitrary and honestly heart-breaking ouster of Atishi Marlena as Delhi’s education adviser, the message has been clear. The only education, the only narrative, allowed in the country is state-sanctioned. Anything else, of course, is against the government, and hence against the nation. This thought process has trickled down to anyone trying to point out how scary and downright fascist this entire erasure is.

The rise of the myth of the urban Naxals comes at the time when the juggernaut of the 2019 election campaign is poised to take off. This government knows that the battering the citizens have taken through ill-advised and ill-implemented policies have soured even their most fervent supporters. By positioning the campaign against two enemies – the ‘other’ or the minorities, and the vague, undefined ‘urban Naxal’ – they’re hoping to avoid the difficult questions on vikaas they have no answers to. Uniting a country with the hatred and fear they generate might win them this election, but it will cost India her conscience, which she’s retained through crises over the years.

In difficult and fraught times, it is our duty to not just actively counter this narrative with facts, honesty and advocacy, but also stand up for our fellow Indians who will be used as sacrifices to this altar of divisiveness.

Harnidh Kaur is a poet and feminist.

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7 Comments Share Your Views

7 COMMENTS

  1. Killing Rajiv Gandhi was a terrorist attack. Choosing govt by vote analysing their work. Asking question to their policies. Critising govt for their policies is not Urban naxal. I am giving vote and paying taxes so I can ask question. What is Urban naxal? Urban naxal is when you are funding and providing arms to Naxalite from cities for violence.some people who provide funds and arms to Naxalite for violence against any govt. So everyone who critise govt is not funding Naxalite and they are not urban Naxalite. This Article is hundred percent correct. Some people are using term Urban Naxalite to stop people from analyzing asking question and critising current govt. They never said these things when we were critising UPA govt.

  2. The word Urban Naxal was coined way before 2019, in 2014 when the film was made. I can clearly see from this article why that film is so relevant. Thanks for coming out and giving us a hint.

  3. Surely India has a worse record in treating minorities as per author. Just a few hundred years back in history, even majority has no rights.
    We are a tolerant nation and the present hue & cry has its origin in politics. any single incidence of law & order is portrayed as an assault on minorities whereas reverse incidences are just brushed aside.Those who ruled our polity & institutions made it sure to exclude other point of view especially Hindu point of view of History and governance. The all pervasive appeasement of minority by our past political masters have led to a major resentment in minds of even educated Hindus.
    Present government is refusing to follow this path of appeasement , hence this feeling of the pampered but exploited class

  4. Killing rajiv gandhi was part of democracy, by that logic, what is wrong in labelling anti nationals as urban naxals.

  5. The writer is completely deviating the fact that India is the only country which tolerates all the atrocities of minorities, communists, naxals and all separationalist who harms the majority in this country in the name of secularism. Can he write against any other religious country while living there? Worst write up.

  6. The author could point out even one country which has a better record in treating minorities better than India? It is only in India that the majority is on the receiving end in the name of intellectualism.
    It seems as if intellect is the sole domain of the minority.

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