Eminent historian Romila Thapar, who petitioned the Supreme Court against the house arrest of five Left-leaning activists, has asked government to define the phrase ‘urban naxal’, saying either they do not understand the meaning of the term or the activists like her do not.
Talking on the arrests of the activists Varavara Rao, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Sudha Bharadwaj and Gautam Navlakha, she said these are people who have been fighting against social injustice.
'We were all born Indians, lived as Indians all our lives and these activists are fighting for good causes and terming them urban naxal is a political move,' she said.
'Do they even know what urban naxal means, first ask the government to define the term and then tell us how we fall into this category. It is very easy to call us urban naxal. And also tell us how we have become urban naxal, either the government does not understand the meaning or we don’t understand the meaning,' Ms. Thapar said.
She was speaking on the sidelines of a press conference held by the petitioners after the Supreme Court judgement refused to interfere with their arrests in connection with the Bhima-Koregaon violence case and declined to appoint a Special Investigation Team (SIT).
The Maharashtra Chief Minister, Mr. Devendra Fadnavis, and others have often referred to these activists as urban naxals and many social media users have enlisted themselves in the category in a show of solidarity with the arrested activists.
Ms. Thapar, economists Dr.Prabhat Patnaik and Dr.Devaki Jain, sociology professor, Dr. Satish Deshpande and human rights lawyer, Ms. Maja Daruwala were the petitioners in the case after the five lawyers, journalists and civil rights activists were arrested on August 28 and charged with abetting acts of terror under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).
'Any democratic institution cannot take law into its hands. It has to go through a certain procedure. Arrests are the last step of a probe it is not the first step of an investigation,' she said.