We are all ‘Urban Naxals’…!

By Ashwin Tombat
12 January 2020 15:13 IST

Two weeks ago, I wrote about the implications of the Citizens’ Amendment Act (CAA) and how, together with the upcoming National Register of Citizens (NRC), it represents a grave danger to the secular fabric and, possibly, even the characteristic ‘unity amidst diversity’ of this country. Events since then have shown that millions of people across the country feel the same way.

Young and old, students and even those who were completely apolitical till now, all joined various forms of protest across India, in towns and cities big and small. They carried Indian flags. They belonged to no party or ideology. They were simply angry that the concept of citizenship as envisaged in the Constitution of India was being perverted and given an unfortunate religious definition by this new law.

But according to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, they were all instigated by the Congress and ‘Urban Naxals’. Union Home Minister Amit Shah described them as members of the ‘Tukde-Tukde Gang’ and said they must be “taught a lesson”. Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the protests were “sponsored” by the ‘Tukde-Tukde Gang’ and ‘Urban Naxals’.

Since then, the Chief Ministers of 11 states – Maharashtra, Odisha, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Kerala, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand – and two union territories – Delhi and Puducherry – have announced that they will not support or implement an NRC in their states. Even our very own Chief Minister Pramod Sawant has said that the NRC may "not be required" at all in Goa. Are they also ‘Urban Naxals’?

A group of 106 retired IAS officers from the All-India and Central Services have written an open letter to the citizens of India saying that the country does not need the CAA, the NRC or the National Population Register (NPR), and that these measures “need to be resolutely opposed”. Are they ‘Urban Naxals’?

Assam, the state where it all started, is on the boil. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has had to cancel two visits to the state – first, a bilateral summit with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe scheduled for Guwahati on 15 and 16 December was “postponed”. Then the PM had to skip the inauguration of the 3rd Khelo India Youth Games on Wednesday. The All Assam Students Union (AASU), which is spearheading the agitation against the CAA, had promised to hold a “massive” protest if the PM visited the state.

Spectators at the Barsapara Stadium during Sunday's India-Sri Lanka T20 cricket match heckled Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal (a former AASU leader himself) and Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, every time their faces were shown on the giant screen. Assam peasant leader Akhil Gogoi has been arrested under the stringent Unlawful Activities [Prevention] Act (UAPA) for CAA protests. Are the leaders of the Assam protests ‘Urban Naxals’?  

Can thousands of people opposing the CAA by shouting "Jai Ambedkar", reading out the Preamble of the Constitution of India, singing the national anthem, and waving the tricolour be traitors, or anti-nationals?

There is a history to this. As Gujarat CM between 2001 and 2014, Narendra Modi did not tolerate any dissent; either within the BJP or outside. Since 2014, he and Amit Shah are doing the same in national politics. By 2024, the Modi-Shah political partnership will have been in power at the state and national level for 23 years, during which they will have run only majority governments. This seems to have curtailed their ability to tolerate dissent.

It is not necessarily ideology-related. Indira Gandhi led intolerant Congress governments. Atal Bihari Vajpayee was quite the opposite when he headed BJP-led governments.

The intolerance of our present rulers and their penchant to call everyone opposed to them as ‘anti-national’ cannot be allowed to succeed. It is time to give the term ‘Urban Naxal’ its due dignity. All it means is that you are opposed to government decisions which you feel are unjust. If I am called an ‘Urban Naxal’ for my views, I will accept the label with pride. You should too…

And the ‘Tukde-Tukde Gang’…? Only one group is being disloyal to India's basic constitutional principles and its foundational ideology. And that is not the one waving the tricolour, singing the national anthem, reading out the Preamble of our Constitution and holding aloft pictures of the man who drafted it.

Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.

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Ashwin Tombat

Ashwin Tombat has been the Editor of Gomantak Times and Herald. Worked as an Associate Editor of national magazine Gentleman in Mumbai, before shifting to Goa. Loves sailing, also participates in Marathons. Has worked as an activist in students's union and trade unions in Maharashtra. Also an artist of Street Theatre during student days.

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Previous Comments

There is no need for any new exercise. If new exercise then Corrupt Government Officials will have the last laugh and they will become the richest people in the whole world. 90% Indians don’t have Birth Certificate who is born in 1990, 1980, 1970, 1960, 1950 and so on. Citizenship/Nationality to Indians should be given with the existing documents like Ration, Aadhar, Voting, PAN, Passport, etc.

- Jack De Goan, Goa | 27 th January 2020 20:58


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