Who is an Urban Naxal? Vivek Agnihotri Presents an Exhaustive Guide

Social Commentary

Who is an Urban Naxal? Vivek Agnihotri Presents an Exhaustive Guide

Illustration: Akshita Monga

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he first sight to greet you at Vivek Agnihotri’s “dialogue” on Urban Naxalism – held at the Indian Merchants’ Chambers in Churchgate last evening – is neat rows of books on terrorism, the workings of the al-Qaeda, and, of course, Naxalism. In another corner, piling on samosas and chai are a group of middle-aged men and women, dressed formally and holding the pink papers. A number of young men in shirts are furiously typing on WhatsApp and an odd few journalists are preparing for another routine spot report.

Once Vivek Agnihotri enters the room, the excitement in the room is palpable. The speaker is greeted to a round of polite applause, along with the other guests on the panel. Questioning Agnihotri on his views on Urban Naxalism is Priti Gandhi, the national social media in-charge of the BJP Mahila Morcha, and a self-professed huge fan of the filmmaker. Perfect for an unbiased interview. Over the next two hours, the topic is discussed in great detail, several times conflated with actual Naxalism, some times simply a discussion on the views of the so-called “Right” vs the so-called “Left” on Twitter, but almost always accompanied by hurrahs.

Agnihotri begins by defining the “biggest internal security threat in the country” Urban Naxalism, but does this through a literally unverifiable crash course in alt-history. What really happened, he claims, was that Indira Gandhi handed over all matters related to education to the Left so she could take their support to form government in the late ’60s. Since then, he says, everything we’ve studied or read in the news – even the inclusion of the word socialist in our Constitution (in force at least a full decade before the ’60s) – has its origins in a Leftist narrative. After years of mainstreaming this narrative, which is intended to create chaos and anarchy, the Left is funding urban folks to both take down the government, and divide the Hindu community.

To back this loaded definition, for the next hour or so, Agnihotri goes on to define a number of characteristics he associates with Urban Naxals, several of which you may notice that we have no control over. So what exactly is an Urban Naxal, and can you stop yourself from accidentally becoming one? Stay woke, using Vivek Agnihotri’s handy guide to Urban Naxalism.

Questioning Agnihotri on his views on Urban Naxalism is Priti Gandhi, the national social media in-charge of the BJP Mahila Morcha, and a self-professed huge fan of the filmmaker. Perfect for an unbiased interview.

Urban Naxals create fake narratives

Clearly he wasn’t talking about the kind of narrative where you coin a term like Urban Naxal and go around accusing people of being a threat to society. Agnihotri is talking about the narratives created by more anti-national groups like the Kabir Kala Manch, which fights for Dalit rights. The “Left” has a great habit of documenting everything, he claims, four cameras pointed at his face. From statue prices to police atrocities, they cover it all, Agnihotri says –  indicating that websites like The Wire, Scroll.in, and Quint, are the key instigators of this trend. The “Right” stays mostly silent on such issues, because they don’t have websites where they counter – with great research – every argument put forth by the mainstream media. To seal his point, he claims that Hindus never even thought it important to note down narratives – including from our ancient texts – preferring to leave it open to interpretation. But now, it’s time to fight propaganda with propaganda.

Urban Naxals believe mainstream media

At one point Priti Gandhi asked a question prefaced by the statement, “Everywhere we go there are Urban Naxals.” Agnihotri goes on to agree wholeheartedly, insisting that Urban Naxals have taken over the top publications with their false narratives. When journalists like Barkha Dutt “expose faultlines” in the international media over the condition of women in this country, or when journalists expose caste crimes, what they’re doing is trying to defame the country. We must question who funds these people, Agnihotri announces, before sidetracking into random musings about this being a ploy by China, America, and the erstwhile Soviet Union to ruin the reputation of our country. Sounds uncomfortably close to the “foreign hand” theory propounded by… oops, Indira Gandhi. Meanwhile Urban Naxals tend to discredit positive, nationalist headlines offered by sites like Swarajya Magazine, when they claim demonetisation has reduced terror in this country, he says, to cheers.

Despite the laundry list noted through the two-hour lecture, he says in response to a question that it’s still almost impossible to identify the “invisible enemy” that is the Urban Naxal.

Urban Naxals believe textbooks

A giant part of what makes you an Urban Naxal is understanding where you’re educated, Agnihotri says, pointing to JNU’s “grand design”. College professors, much like journalists, lawyers, social activists, police officers and even IAS and IFS officers, are facing an Urban Naxal plague. Our more modern texts, it has been established, were written by Leftists, meaning that Mughals were never considered colonists, or the British were treated a little too fairly. English is praised, Hindi is put down; Christianity is praised, Hinduism is put down. It’s hard to understand why this entire room of very educated people agrees with him then.  

Criticising our country’s flaws, which Agnihotri claims he too was brainwashed into doing during his college days, should be replaced with an Indic renaissance, a resurgence of Indian culture on the world map.

Urban Naxals fight cases in court

Look out for the guy who keeps filing petitions in court! He’s definitely an Urban Naxal! Another Urban Naxal is Swara Bhaskar, who has filed a defamation case against Agnihotri, the “common man,” who is not used to legal proceedings. Activism and Naxalism go hand-in-hand, since ordinary people are rarely filled with enough passion to constantly file cases related to “Human Rights,” that bugbear. Naxals in rural areas make money through extortion he claims, money which is later used to fund ideological wars in the cities. They allow people to steal leopard cubs with a 20 per cent cut, take a 15 per cent cut from road construction projects, take ₹1,000 from each truck driver who passes through their land. Teachers and hostel staff are extorted, even tractor drivers aren’t spared. Meticulously researched details that Agnihotri presents on a piece of handwritten paper.

Meanwhile Urban Naxals tend to discredit positive, nationalist headlines offered by sites like Swarajya Magazine, when they claim demonetisation has reduced terror in this country, he says, to cheers.

Urban Naxals want to divide Hinduism and India into pieces

Not much to back this, but a giant chunk of what makes you an Urban Naxal is an iteration of “tukde tukde gang,” that is, wanting to divide the country, and Hindus into pieces. To be quite frank there’s other terms we have for people like this, such as criminals, or terrorists, but in Agnihotri’s world all issues are combined under Urban Naxalism.

Finally, after fluttering back and forth through hundreds of claims without too many citations, Agnihotri ends on a sinister note. Despite the laundry list noted through the two-hour lecture, he says in response to a question that it’s still almost impossible to identify the “invisible enemy” that is the Urban Naxal.

It’s a sound ploy – nothing is as scary as an invisible enemy, because you’re never sure of their existence in the first place. Perhaps the reason Agnihotri’s greatest fear is so undetectable, is because the only place it exists is inside his head.

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