Vivek Agnihotri explains what he meant by ‘making a list’ of people supporting Urban Naxals

There has been a debate going on various media platforms ever since various self-styled activists were detained or arrested by police on charges that included supporting Maoists, aiding violence during the Bhima Koregaon event, and planning assassination of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. A specific set of people have already prejudiced the case by declaring everyone innocent, even though some of those arrested were already convicted earlier by courts for similar offences.

These people having been using terms like Emergency and McCarthyism, and putting out usual stable supply of terms like ‘fascism’, ‘Nazism’ and ‘dictatorship’ to describe the situation; while others have pointed out the inherent irony of them being free to accuse the government and state of these transgressions without any curb on their freedom to indulge in this behaviour.

Things became a little heated on Twitter earlier today when author and filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri posted a message asking people to make a list of those who are defending the ‘Urban Naxals’ – the title of his popular book as well as a term to refer to those living in the cities and embedded in the mainstream society, but aiding movements that aim to weaken or break down the nation-state through violence. This is what he tweeted:

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Immediately, Vivek was accused of trying to create a ‘hit list’, members of which will be penalized and persecuted for holding contrary beliefs. As Godwin’s Law predicts, the predictable lot also termed his call to make such a list similar to proscription lists prepared by Nazis. As a result, Vivek was bombarded with a barrage of accusatory and abusive messages in response and a hashtag #MeTooUrbanNaxal was trended by those opposed to him.

But what was Vivek really thinking when he suggested making such a list? What was he aiming for? What would be done with that list? reached out to Vivek, who first laughed off the extreme reactions to his tweet, but said that the reactions also show that he was right in claiming that there is a huge number of urban dwellers who are committed to the Maoist or Naxal cause; they get triggered by anything that upsets their agenda – whether arrests or tweets.

When asked specifically what was the list supposed to achieve, Vivek said that he didn’t aim to create any ‘actionable’ list, but just a dataset where people can see what is common between those who were supporting the ‘Urban Naxals’.

“Obviously it was not any hit list. I don’t have any power to hit anyone. In fact, I am the one who was hit, literally!” Vivek told OpIndia, “But if such a list is created, you can analyse and spot trends. How the members of that list are interconnected, either through politics or through financial means. What binds them together. Some could be active supporters, while some could be just fooled into this whole narrative.”

“I stand by my tweet,” he added, “This should be taken as an academic exercise.”

But would he not agree that without this context, his tweet could be taken otherwise and could be seen as an attempt to censor or even target some specific people? When asked about this, Vivek said that he wanted to demonstrate this aspect as well.

“I agree with you that such lists could appear menacing,” he said, “But I just gave an idea of creating a list, while these people who are now attacking me have been creating such lists forever. Every other day I am on some list spread on social media where they call me names and brand me fascist, bigot, and what not.”

“Just look at that book on trolls written by a lady who herself is a troll,” Vivek further said, “That book has a list targeting private citizens, and politicians like Derek O’Brien have used that list to defame ordinary citizens in the parliament. That’s what you call a hit list.”

“By outraging against my tweet and my suggested list, they expose their own mindset and modus operandi,” he argued, “These are the people who create lists to target people and entities, so they think that when someone else talks about creating a list, they will also indulge in a similar end game. But my game here is only about narrative and academic.”

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