An open letter to our fellow citizens: More of us will speak every day…
October 7, 2019
An FIR has been lodged against forty-nine of our colleagues in the cultural community, simply because they performed their duty as respected members of civil society. They wrote an open letter to the Prime Minister, expressing concern about mob lynching in our country.
Can this be called an act of sedition? Or is harassment by misusing the courts a ploy to silence citizens’ voices?
All of us, as members of the Indian cultural community, as citizens of conscience, condemn such harassment. We do more: we endorse every word of the letter our colleagues wrote to the Prime Minister. This is why we share their letter here once again, and appeal to the cultural, academic and legal communities to do the same. This is why more of us will speak every day. Against mob lynching. Against the silencing of people’s voices. Against the misuse of courts to harass citizens.
Text of open letter written to Prime Minister Modi on 23 July 2019 by 49 eminent citizens, including Aparna Sen, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Shyam Benegal, Anurag Kashyap, Ashis Nandy and Ramachandra Guha:
We, as peace loving and proud Indians, are deeply concerned about a number of tragic events that have been happening in recent times in our beloved country.
Our Constitution describes India as a secular socialist democratic republic where citizens of all religions, ethnicities, gender and castes are equal. Hence, to ensure that every citizen enjoys the rights given to her/him by the Constitution, our submission is:
1. The lynching of Muslims, Dalits and other minorities must be stopped immediately. We were shocked to learn from the NCRB (National Crime Records Bureau) reports that there have been no less than 840 instances of atrocities against Dalits in the year 2016, and a definite decline in the percentage of convictions.
Further, 254 religious identity-based hate crimes were reported between January 1, 2009, and October 29, 2018, where at least 91 persons were killed and 579 were injured (FactChecker.in database, October 30, 2018). The Citizen's Religious Hate-Crime Watch recorded that Muslims, (14% of India's population) were the victims in 62% for cases, and Christians (2% of the population), in 14% cases. About 90% of these attacks were reported after May 2014, when your Government assumed power nationally.
You have criticized such lynchings in Parliament Mr. Prime Minister, but that is not enough! What action has actually been taken against the perpetrators? We strongly feel that such offences should be declared non-bailable, and that exemplary punishment should be meted out swiftly and surely. If life imprisonment without parole can be the sentence in cases of murder, why not for lynchings, which are even more heinous? No citizen should have to live in fear in his/her own country!
Regrettably "Jai Sri Ram" has become a provocative 'war-cry' today that leads to law and order problems, and many lynchings take place in its name. It is shocking to see so much violence perpetrated in the name of religion! These are not the Middle Ages! The name of Ram is sacred to many in the majority community of India. As the highest Executive of this country, you must put a stop to the name of Ram being defiled in this manner.
2. There is no democracy without dissent. People should not be branded ‘anti-national’ or 'urban Naxal' and incarcerated because of dissent against the Government. Article 19 of the Constitution of India protects freedom of speech and expression of which dissent is an integral part.
Criticising the ruling party does not imply criticising the nation. No ruling party is synonymous with the country where it is in power. It is only one of the political parties of that country. Hence anti-government stands cannot be equated with anti-national sentiments. An open environment where dissent is not crushed, only makes for a stronger nation.
We hope our suggestions will be taken in the spirit that they are meant – as Indians genuinely concerned with, and anxious about, the fate of our nation.
1 A Mangai 63 Ira Bhaskar 125 Rajan Gurukkal 2 Aarti Sethi 64 J Devika 126 Rajashri Dasgupta 3 Abha Dev Habib 65 Javed Malick 127 Rajendra Chenni 4 Abhishek Kaicker 66 Jawari Mal Parakh 128 Rajendra Sharma 5 Abhishek Majumdar 67 Jeet Thayil 129 Rajesh Joshi 6 Achin Vanaik 68 Jerry Pinto 130 Ranbir Kaleka 7 Achyutanand Mishra 69 Jyothi A 131 Ranjit Hoskote 8 Ajitha GS 70 Jyoti Punwani 132 Ravikant 9 Akeel Bilgrami 71 K Satchidanandan 133 Rekha Awasthi 10 Amit Bhaduri 72 K Srilata 134 Renu Ramanath 11 Ammu Joseph 73 Karthik Venkatesh 135 Ritu Menon 12 Amrita Pande 74 Kavery Nambisan 136 Romila Thapar 13 Anand Pradhan 75 KG Sankara Pillai 137 Ruchi Chaturvedi 14 Anand Teltumbde 76 KP Fabian 138 Rukmini Bhaya Nair 15 Ananya Parikh 77 KP Jayasankar 139 S Raghunandana 16 Ania Loomba 78 KP Ramanunni 140 Saba Dewan 17 Anil Janvijay 79 Krishnan Unni P 141 Saba Hasan 18 Anitha Thampi 80 KS Parthasarathy 142 Sabeena Gadihoke 19 Anjali Monteiro 81 Kunal Sen 143 Saleem Peeradina 20 Arun Dev 82 Leela Jacinto 144 Salil Chaturvedi 21 Arundhati Dhuru 83 MA Baby 145 Salim Yusufji 22 Arundhati Ghosh 84 Madhu Bhaduri 146 Sandeep Pandey 23 Arunima Sehgal 85 Madhusree Dutta 147 Sandhya Taksale 24 Ashok Bhaumik 86 Mallika Sarabhai 148 Sanjeev Kumar 25 Ashok Vajpeyi 87 Mangad Rathnakaran 149 Saumya Chakrabarti 26 Ashutosh Kumar 88 Mangalesh Dabral 150 Savithri Rajeevan 27 Atamjit Singh 89 Manishi Jani 151 SG Vasudev 28 Ayesha Kidwai 90 Maria Couto 152 Shafey Kidwai 29 B Rajeevan 91 Maya Rao 153 Shamsul Islam 30 Badri Raina 92 Merlin Moli 154 Shamya Dasgupta 31 Bajrang Bihari 93 MMP Singh 155 Shantanu Ray Chaudhuri 32 Bali singh 94 Moinak Biswas 156 Shashi Deshpande 33 Balvant Kaur 95 Moloyashree Hashmi 157 Sherna Dastur 34 Bharat Tiwari 96 Moolchandra Gautam 158 Shoma A Chatterjji 35 Bhasha Singh 97 MP Pratheesh 159 Siddharth 36 Bodhisatv 98 Mridula Garg 160 Sonia Jabbar 37 BRP Bhaskar 99 Mridula Koshy 161 Sreyashi Dastidar 38 Chaman Lal 100 MV Narayanan 162 Subhasini Ali 39 Chanchal Chauhan 101 Naina Dayal 163 Subhasis Bandyopadhyay 40 Chandrakant Patil 102 Nancy Adajania 164 Subodh Varma 41 Civic Chandran 103 Nandita Narain 165 Sudeshna Sengupta 42 CK Meena 104 Naseeruddin Shah 166 Sudhanva Deshpande 43 Damodar Mauzo 105 Natasha Badhwar 167 Sudhir Chandra 44 Devaki Khanna 106 Nayantara Sahgal 168 Sumangala Damodaran 45 Devendra Choube 107 Neelan Premji 169 Sunil P Elayidom 46 Dilip Borkar 108 Neelima Sharma 170 Svati Joshi 47 EV Ramakrishnan 109 Neeraj Malik 171 Syantani Chatterjee 48 Faisal Khan 110 Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay 172 Syeda Hameed 49 Gauhar Raza 111 Nilanjana Bhowmick 173 TM Krishna 50 Gayatri Spivak 112 NP Chekkutty 174 Udaya Kumar 51 Geeta Kapur 113 NS Madhavan 175 Vaasanthi Sundaram 52 Geetanjali Shree 114 Nupur Asher 176 Valay Singh 53 Girdhar Rathi 115 Pamela Philipose 177 Venkitesh Ramakrishnan 54 Gita Jayaraj 116 PK Parakkadavu 178 Vibha Maurya 55 Githa Hariharan 117 PK Pokker 179 Vijay Prashad 56 Gyan Prakash 118 PN Gopikrishnan 180 Vijaya Venkataraman 57 Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar 119 Poile Sengupta 181 Vishnu Nagar 58 Harsh Mander 120 Prabir Purkayastha 182 Vivan Sundaram 59 Hemlata Mahishwar 121 Pradeep Chakraverti 183 Vivek Narayanan 60 Himanjali Sankar 122 Pramod Ranjan 184 Yousuf Saeed 61 Hiralal Rajasthani 123 Purushottam Agrawal 185 Zoya Hasan 62 Ina Puri 124 Rahman Abbas
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