They are scared of questions; and that is exactly what we will do
October 9, 2019
On the 8th of October, theatre artists, filmmakers and cultural activists in Jaipur staged a protest against the lodging of sedition charges & FIRs against 49 celebrities, who were signatories to an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in July this year. The letter sent by artists, intellectuals and activists in July expressed their concerns on the growing number of incidents of mob lynching and hate crimes based on religion and caste in the country. It also stressed on the value of dissent in democracies and noted that a sacred chant, “Jai Shri Ram” was reduced to a "provocative war cry”.
The Indian Cultural Forum (ICF) spoke to Sandeep Meel, Rajasthan State Secretary of the ‘Janwadi Lekhak Sangh’, a progressive writers’ group and a participant in the protest. Meel said that the protest was organised to voice their rights to free speech and expression, while also to resist intimidation in the name of sedition charges. “The registration of FIRs against artists & filmmakers is an open assault on the democratic values of the Indian constitution. It is a planned attack on the values of Indian democracy; an attempt to turn India into a majoritarian state” said Meel to ICF. He added, “It symbolises the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s abuse of the law to crush freedom of speech in the name of dissent against the state. It has been aimed to terrify the citizens against non-conformity to a particular set of religious values and norms in the guise of sedition charges”.
The filing of the FIRs were ordered by a Patna court on the 20th of August. Lodged under IPC sections related to public nuisance, sedition charges and hurting religious sentiments, the order was preceded by a petition filed by a local lawyer, accusing the signatories of having “tarnished the image of the country”.
Condemning the act, Meel said, “Our protest is to shame the forces that try to crush freedom of speech & expression, and to uphold our right to free thinking. We will not tolerate the use of coercion, threats and intimidation to erase the values of democracy.”
He further added, “Such acts against dissent is an insidious trick by the ruling government to manipulate public conception of what is right and wrong. It is a means to curb reason and make the citizens docile.”
Meel informed us that the Janwadi Lekhak Sangh was going to go for a nation-wide signature campaign of progressive artists, against the misuse of the legal machinery to harass citizens who exercise their constitutionally granted right to express their concern about various forms of discrimination in the country.
“Minuscule rate of convictions of people involved in mob lynchings and incidents of murder of anti-Hindutva activists like Gauri Lankesh, Dabolkar, highlight the devious strategy of the ruling party to crush the constitutional values that promote rational thinking, by creating an environment of fear and hostility”, added the State Secretary.
Commenting on the right to resist intimidation, he said “We are not going to give into Hindutva’s idea of putting superstition before rationale. We will stand firm against their tactics to brainwash the public. They are scared of our questions; and that is exactly what we will continue to do – question”.
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