Read books? You’re a Naxal!

Read books? You’re a Naxal!

A slur and an attempt to prepare a hit list of ‘urban Naxals’ gets social media raging

Vivek Agnihotri, a filmmaker not very well known till now, tried earlier this week to get ‘young minds’ to help him come up with a list of ‘Urban Naxals.’

It has backfired spectacularly.

The tweet came in the wake of outrage over the arrest of lawyers and activists from different parts of the country (see box), whom the police described as ‘Urban Naxals.’

While social media was already upset about what it sees as a crackdown on dissent, Agnihotri’s attempt to prepare a hit list got it raging.

Hundreds of protesters have volunteered to have their names up on the list. A ‘#MeTooUrbanNaxal’ hashtag has been trending for two days. Actor Swara Bhasker and author Arundhati Roy are among those who support the movement.

Want to know if you can put your name on the list? Metrolife helps by listing some characteristics an ‘Urban naxal’ must have.

Expresses opinions 

If you are vocal about your thoughts and opinions, you qualify. If you substantiate your online and offline views with facts and figures instead of a healthy dose of name-calling and abuse, you make it on priority.


An urban Naxal must have read a bit and we don’t just mean WhatsApp here. A fair knowledge of history (the actual one, not the distorted facts we get to hear nowadays), politics, economics, sociology and so on helps. A basic understanding of how the world works at large will be a stepping stone to getting your name on the list.


Being compassionate and aware of the reasons that cause people to pick up arms equates to being an enemy of the country. Even if you are staunchly against violence and don’t support the ideology of extremists, just trying to understand them makes you dangerous.

Questions the government

A foolproof way to show how ‘anti-national’ you are. How dare you question and criticise the government in these trying times? No sense of patriotism?

Points out what’s wrong

Caste violence, unemployment, ecological disasters, safety of women — no matter what facts you use to back your claims, it’s only a pointer towards your lack of respect for the motherland. All is well, don’t you know?

A Bollywood film director, producer and screenwriter with ‘Chocolate’, ‘Dhan Dhana Dhan Goal’, ‘Zid’ and ‘Hate Story’ to his credit. He is the husband of actress Pallavi Joshi and is active on social media. He has written a book titled ‘Urban Naxals: The Making of Buddha in a Traffic Jam’. He reportedly defines urban Naxals as “urban intellectuals, influencers or activists of importance” who are actually India’s “invisible enemies”. Some people are accusing Vivek of tweeting the idea of a hit list to promote his book.

A vile term

Some Twitter users are pointing out that though the intent behind the hashtag #MeTooUrbanNaxal is commendable, it is actually legitimising a vile term used to target certain sections of the society.

Twitter user Ashwaq Masoodi posted:

“All love and respect for those who are saying #MeTooUrbanNaxal but there are many out there who don’t really have the privilege of caste, religion, money or class to even say this. They know if the hit list is *real*, they will be the ones picked first.”


Here’s what happened

Earlier this week, the Pune police raided houses across the country and picked up lawyer Sudha Bhardwaj, activist-lawyer Vernon Gonsalves, poet Varavara Rao, human rights activist Gautam Navlakha, and human rights activist-lawyer Arun Ferreira.

The Supreme Court then stepped in and said dissent was a safety valve of democracy. It put those picked up under house arrest, refusing to send them to judicial or police custody.
The story goes back to a rally that took place in Pune on December 31, 2017 (and continued into the next day).

Almost three lakh people, mostly Dalits, gathered to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Bhima–Koregaon victory, where Dalits joined with the British to defeat the Peshwa regime.

The event was organised by two retired judges, Justice Sawant and Justice Kolse Patel. Police allege the speeches at the conclave fuelled violence between Dalits and upper caste groups.