India News

#MeTooUrbanNaxals Trends On Social Media In Protest Against Filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri’s Call For Making A ‘List’ Of Dissenters

Vivek Agnihotri, a Bollywood filmmaker who made films such as Dhan Dhana Dhan Goal, Hate Story and Buddha In A Traffic Jam, is receiving flak on social media for launching a campaign to help the central government curb dissent. On August 28, after five activists were arrested by the Pune Police in connection with the Bhima Koregaon violence in January this year, Agnihotri urged ‘young bright minds’ on Twitter to make a ‘list’ of those who were defending ‘Urban Naxals’, a group he refers to as ‘invisible enemies of India’. 

Agnihotri coined the term ‘Urban Naxals’ through his 2017 book of the same title. In his essay series on Swarajya Magazine, he calls Urban Naxals the “invisible enemies of India, some of them have been caught or those who are under the police radar on the charge of spreading insurgency against the Indian state.” The word is now used by some mainstream media outlets to refer to intellectuals, students, activists, writers and lawyers who are actively involved in social issues, and openly express their dissent with the policies of the ruling party and its subsidiaries. 

The Supreme Court, on the same day of the arrest, told Pune police that the five arrested poet and Maoist ideologue Varavara Rao, activists Sudha Bharadwaj, Arun Fereira, Gautam Navlakha and Vernon Gonsalves be kept under house arrest till the next hearing, and turned down the prosecution’s demand to leave them in police custody. “Dissent is the safety valve of democracy. If you don’t allow the safety valve pressure cooker will burst,” said the five-judge bench led by the Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, while issuing a notice to the Maharashtra government and other parties on the arrest of the activists, and sought their replies by September 6.

On Twitter, many were shocked and outraged by Agnihotri’s tweet:

Meanwhile, Agnihotri’s call for identifying and enlisting names of dissenters gathered momentum, and people started making and circulating lists as this:

Countering Agnihotri’s attempt, Pratik Sinha, the founder of Alt News, a website designed to bust fake news, started a hashtag trend #MeTooUrbanNaxal.

After thousands of people started tweeting on the hashtag, Agnihotri reacted:

On the same day, News Laundry website’s Abhinandan Sekhri interviewed Agnihotri on the concept of urban naxals, on his claim that an overwhelmingly high percentage of India is overrun by Maoists, and about JNU. In the interview teaser, Sekhri is also seen grilling him on the statistics he used to explain the idea of urban naxals.

Watch the teaser here: