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Romila Thapar wanted to know more about the term ‘Urban Naxals’. The answer lies within the Maharashtra police’s press conference

Author: Nitten Gokhaley
Publication: Myind.net
Date: October 4, 2018
URL:      https://myind.net/Home/viewArticle/romila-thapar-wanted-to-know-more-about-the-term-urban-naxals-the-answer-lies-within-the-maharashtra-polices-press-conference

During the last week, Romila Thapar asked the central government to explain the meaning of the term 'Urban Naxal' to her. The so-called historian was interacting with journalists during a press conference called after the Supreme Court's decision to not to interfere in the Pune's police probe.

Thapar happens to be one of the petitioners who approached the Supreme Court after Pune police's action against Gautam Navlakha, Sudha Bharadwaj, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, and Varavara Rao. She seemed visibly upset during the conference and claimed that terming the five accused as Urban Naxals was a political move.

Not just Thapar, but even left/right-leaning politicians, as well as social media users, seem to be sketchy when it comes to defining and contextualizing the term. Unfortunately, even essays based on West Bengal's Naxal Movements witnessed during the 1960s fail to make things simple. Some columnists claim the term remains undefined and attribute it to filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri's film, book, and essays.

Is the word derived from stupidity as claimed by left-leaning columnists and journalists? Is it a brainchild of someone in the rightwing eco-system? Perhaps, a straightforward and understandable answer to these questions lies in the Maharashtra Police’s press conference conducted on August 31, 2018.

After the house arrest of the five accused, several journalists started discrediting police investigation. Few of them, like Rajdeep Sardesai, also called up the complainant Tushar Damgude and tried intimidating him for filing the FIR against the naxal supporters for their involvement in Koregaon-Bhima riots. Several biased journalists were not even willing to refer the arrested persons as accused. To make matters worse, the government’s Additional Solicitor General goofed up, perhaps, due to lack of awareness. While representing the government in the Supreme Court, he was unable to give satisfactory answers regarding specific police procedures followed by cops in Maharashtra. Thus, it was necessary for the police to make things clear.

“During the press conference, Maharashtra's Additional Director General of Police, PB Singh was questioned by journalists about his opinion regarding Urban Naxals.”

"Urban Naxalites is not a new term. I have worked in naxal affected areas of Chandrapur, Bhandara in Maharashtra before twenty years. Urban Naxalites existed during those days and such individuals used to visit industrial units, residential colonies to provoke people and create a support base for the naxal movement. Back then, such naxal supporters were also killed during police encounters in urban areas from Maharashtra as well as Andhra Pradesh. As far as the five individuals in question are concerned, I would say these are over ground cadres who were working on the instructions of their central committee (CPI Maoist central committee) and underground cadre," said PB Singh.

The press conference answered Romila Thapar’s question. The lawyer representing her had also questioned the senior police officer’s right to conduct the press conference in the Supreme Court. Didn’t Thapar or her lawyer listen to PB Singh’s comments on Urban Naxals carefully?  Didn't he explain that it's an old phenomenon?

"Terrorists have sleeper cells. They may not have any direct role in terror activities, but offer money, vehicles, houses, and other logistical support to terrorists. Similarly, some bureaucrats, politicians, lawyers, intellectuals, and journalists act as sleeper cells and offer support to the Urban Naxals. For example, when former minister Jairam Ramesh asked Prithviraj Chavan to release Mahesh Raut arrested under UAPA during anti-naxal operation, he may not have direct links with naxals, but ended up helping him due to lobbying from naxal supporters. Raut was a Prime Minister’s Rural Development Fellow but was caught by the then Maharashtra anti naxal Operations DIG, Ravindra Kadam for links with banned Maoist groups in June 2013. The police must approach the former minister and ask him who advised him to interfere in state's law and order to get Raut released," said advocate, activist Sanjiv Punalekar.

“Thapar and the left eco-system cannot question PB Singh’s honesty. He happens to be the same person who was an essential part of the team that investigated Malegaon Blast case and arrested Col. Purohit, Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, as well as others. The leftists had hailed the team for their findings back then.”

“Given the context in which Gautam Navlakha and others were arrested, asking for the definition of Urban Naxal is irrelevant. Even if they don’t fit in any given definition of Urban Naxal, will it dilute the allegations against them anyway? Will it make the evidence against them less relevant? No, not at all. Therefore, what is to be seen today is the seriousness of the allegations and the material backing the allegations against these five persons. Demand to define Urban Naxal in the context of these arrests and Koregaon-Bhīma violence is aimed to paint the investigation as hollow and to derail it,” said Mumbai-based advocate Dharam Raj.
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