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Abhinav Agarwal

TOP 500 REVIEWER


5.0 out of 5 stars"Because there is no place for an alternative narrative"
4 June 2018
Format: Paperback
Since the beginning of civilization, the favoured method of barbarians out to destroy
great civilizations was to destroy their places of learning. Most Mayan writings of the
Aztecs were destroyed by Bishop Landa of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of
Yucatán, while other Catholic priests burned the great Aztec library of Netza
Hualcoyotl in Mexico City in the sixteenth century. Pope Gregory the Great ordered
the library of Palatine Apollo burned in the late sixth century. The great library of
Alexandria, perhaps the greatest library in the western world, was burned at the
urging of Christian Bishop Theophilos. The largest library in the world at the time, at
Nalanda, which contained an estimated hundreds of thousands of manuscripts, was
destroyed by Bakhtiyar Khilji’s hordes in 1193 CE. During the twentieth century,
thousands of books were burned by the German Student Union in Nazi Germany in
1933.

Things have now changed. Universities, or libraries, are no longer seen as places to
be physically destroyed by those inimical to civilization. They have instead been
infiltrated and turned into centers for brainwashing entire generations of students into
ardent followers of every single genocidal philosophy that has gained currency at
some or the other point in time – Fabian socialism, Marxism, communism, liberalism,
Maoism, socialism, and a peculiarly Indian variant – Naxalism, the students and
academics becoming Urban Naxals.

It was in December 2010 that Vivek Agnihotri – the author of this book and the
maker of what would become a movie titled, “Buddha In a Traffic Jam“, and which
would release in 2016 – found himself and his family caught in the chaos created by
the Gujjar agitation even as they sought to get to Jaipur from Agra. Driven through
country, village, and then over no roads, in the middle of a freezing north Indian
winter night, insights, like this – “Social disparity in India is a function of economic
disparity. We have been trying to find socio-political solutions for fundamentally
economic problems” struck him. As did the idea for the movie. What had started out
as a proposal to do a crime thriller, set in the environs of the Indian School of
Business (ISB), morphed into an exploration of the urban nexus with the rural
Naxalite insurgency. This string of an idea and a shoestring of a budget were what
the fate of the movie hung by a thread on. That, and the generosity of actors like
Anupam Kher and others, who cut their fees upon hearing the plot of the movie and
the passion that Vivek evidently exuded.

The narration of Vivek’s struggle has three distinct parts. The first is his journey as a
filmmaker and a peek into the creative process as every chapter in the movie took
form – whether it is the decision to structure the movie in a book-like chapterwise
fashion, or whether it is his personal experience in getting a prompt response from
his satellite TV provider only after going on Twitter to complain, or how that
experience leads him to project his protaganist as a social-media influencer.
You also get to read the absolute hypocrisy of left-leaning, Naxal supporting artistes,
who spend their time performing pro-Naxal songs, supporting leftist ideology that
advocates the destruction of the nation, but have no qualms in wanting to work for a
movie that is harshly critical of the Naxal terrorist movement. One such experience
that Vivek recounts was with a starlet who earned lacs of rupees from state-run
television channels even as her political ideology called for the complete destruction
of the same state. Or the hideous reality of a journalist – and son of a disgraced
general – who told Vivek he wanted a National award winning actress replaced
because she was dark. His preference was for someone fair.

The second part of the book is the research into and thoughts on the Naxal menace
that has taken thousands of lives over the decades and which has spread its
tentacles into urban India, indoctrinating students into becoming screaming
advocates of murder, violence, and anarchy – at government-funded universities.
Economics was what gave birth to the Naxal menace, and economics is what
sustains and fuels it – just the Naxal/Maoist extortion business is estimated at over
two-thousand crores.

Vivek writes about the tragic tale of Niyamat Ansari, a local activist, who, along with
his colleague Bhukan Singh, tried to get villagers their dues from the MGNREGS
scheme but which were being pilfered by corrupt contractors working in tandem with
Naxalites. The Naxalites responded by assaulting Ansari, brutally beating Ansari with
sticks, leaving him for dead. The villagers refused to help Ansari’s father carry his
son to the hospital. By the time Ansari was taken to the hospital, he had died.

The third part of the book-within-the-book is the story of the struggle in getting the
movie screened at centers of learning that have become dens of the entrenched
Urban Naxal mafia – at places like IIT Madras, Jawaharlal Nehru University,
Jadavpur University, Osmania University, TISS, and others. The modus operanding
of the faculty who support the Naxals, who work behind the scenes to sabotage the
screening by first withholding permission for the screening till the last possible
moment, or changing the venue on whim, or, in the case of a famous institute in
Bangalore, by giving permission for the screening on a holiday, when hardly any
students would be present.

In March 2016, when Vivek lands in Kolkata, to go to Jadavpur University for a


screening of his movie, his driver tells him, “Sir, this is Kolkata, a giant blocked drain.
A gutter without an outlet.” He very well could have been describing the state of
intellectual inquiry at Jadavpur University itself. Vivek finds that out shortly
afterwards when his car – a Toyota Innova – is surrounded by a mob of hundreds of
screaming students, who bang on his car, hit it with their placards, climb on it, break
the side mirror, and spit.

Had Vivek not been a movie-maker, he would have been a very successful writer.
Read the book for its subject, for the disturbing picture it reveals of the extent of
radicalization rampant at our centers of learning, and also read the book for its
writing. To end, what about the act of spitting on the author’s car at Jadvapur
University? The decorous act of spitting on the glass was performed by a girl, who
screams at Vivek that he can never show his movie at Jadavpur University, ‘Because
there is no place for alternative narrative at JU.‘
[a longer version of this review appeared in IndicToday]

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