Outraged over multi-city raids by the Maharashtra police on homes of several prominent activists and subsequent arrests, a number of noted lawyers, academics, authors, human rights defenders and opposition leaders have termed the action as a “virtual declaration of emergency”. On social media, netizens have started raising their voice against the arrests with the hashtag #MeTooUrbanNaxal.
On Tuesday, raids were carried out by the Pune Police in Mumbai, Ranchi, Hyderabad, Faridabad, Delhi and Thane, with Varavara Rao, Arun Ferreira, Gautam Navlakha, Varnan Gonsalves and Sudha Bhardwaj were the five activists arrested in connection with the violence which broke out in January.
The hashtag was created in response to a tweet by film maker Vivek Agnihotri, also an author of a book called Urban Naxals: The Making of Buddha in a Traffic Jam, who had tweeted: "I want some bright young people to make a list of all those who are defending #UrbanNaxals Let's see where it leads. If you want to volunteer with commitment, pl DM me. @squintneon would you like to take the lead?" Agnihotri tweeted.
I want some bright young people to make a list of all those who are defending #UrbanNaxals Let’s see where it leads. If you want to volunteer with commitment, pl DM me. @squintneon would you like to take the lead?— Vivek Agnihotri (@vivekagnihotri) August 28, 2018
Not amused by his tweet, many users responded to Agnihotri with #MeTooUrbanNaxal. The hashtag is trending on social media with supporters of the activists slamming Agnihotri and the government for the action.
How's that list going? Have enough? If not, put my name on it #MeTooUrbanNaxal— Sandhya Menon (@TheRestlessQuil) August 29, 2018
Dissent is important for our democracy to function and to hold our Government accountable. I intend to do exactly that.
Put me on your list.#metoourbannaxal— Meghnad (@Memeghnad) August 29, 2018
Dear @vivekagnihotri,— Akash Banerjee (@akashbanerjee) August 29, 2018
I have a t-shirt for you - please send address so that i can send first one for inauguration ðð¼
Also please confirm size - XXXS I believe? #MeTooUrbanNaxal pic.twitter.com/AeUjBZwZpA
I think. I debate. I read. I question. I dissent. I criticise. I emphatise. I protest. I probe. I exist. #MeTooUrbanNaxal— amrita madhukalya (@visually_kei) August 29, 2018
Heard they are making a list of people who question the government, would love to be added in that, so we are Anti - Establishment, Anti- National Now #MeTooUrbanNaxal :)— Gajendra Sharma (@Airavta) August 29, 2018
#UrbanNaxal is the new Anti-National
The word "Anti-national" became a big joke and lost its actual meaning after ministers & trolls started using it for anyone and everyone mindlessly.
Same thing is happening with Urban Naxal. That's why #MeTooUrbanNaxal— Dhruv Rathee (@dhruv_rathee) August 29, 2018
The arrest and harassment of 5 so-called urban naxals is a blatant attempt to criminalise political dissent. #MeTooUrbanNaxal— S lrfan Habib (@irfhabib) August 29, 2018
The hashtag saw more than 38,000 tweets by 3.30 pm on Wednesday, mostly by those who sought to register a protest against the arrests of the five activists. #MeTooUrbanNaxal was the second-most popular Twitter trend in India till the time the story was published.
Alt News founder Pratik Sinha was among the firsts who tweeted with #MeTooUrbanNaxal, urging people to come together and raise their voices against being called Urban Naxals.
"Tons of people are already using #MeTooUrbanNaxal on Twitter and Facebook. Let us destroy this new fascist wet dream of branding those who stand up for the underprivileged and marginalised sections of the society as Urban Naxals," Sinha tweeted.
Tons of people are already using #MeTooUrbanNaxal on Twitter and Facebook. Let us destroy this new fascist wet dream of branding those who stand up for the underprivileged and marginalised sections of the society as Urban Naxals.— Pratik Sinha (@free_thinker) August 29, 2018
The police have booked all the accused under Sections 153 A, 505(1) B,117,120 B,13,16,18,20,38,39,40 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
The arrests have drawn flak from rights activists, academicians and the Opposition. Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury condemned the arrests, saying that it was a "blatant attack on democratic rights in the country," and that it was worse than the declaration of the Emergency in 1975.
In January, violence erupted in Bhima Koregaon during the gathering to mark the 200th anniversary of the Bhima-Koregaon battle. A youth died and several others, including 10 policemen, were injured in the incident.