49 personalities write to PM Modi over religious hate crimes, lynchings and dissent

49-personalities have written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, over concerns of growing cases of lynchings.

Film directors, historians and actors such as Ramchandra Guha, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Mani Ratnam, Anurag Kashyap and Aparna Sen, Konkona Sen Sharma, Soumitra Chatterjee and many others signed the letter expressing regret that ‘Jai Shree Ram’ has become a war cry today.

The letter dated 23rd July reads:

“Dear Prime Minister

We, as peace loving and proud Indians, are deeply concerned about the 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 caste are equal. Hence, to ensure that every citizen enjoys the right 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.indatabase (October 30, 2018). The Citizen’s Religious Hate Crimes Watch recorded that Muslims, (14% of India’s population) were the victims in 62% of cases, and Christians (2% of the population), in 14% of the cases. About 90% of these attacks were reported after May 2014, when your government assumed power nationally.

You have criticised 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 sentence in cases of murder, why not for lynchings, where are even more heinous? No citizen should have to live in fear in his/her own country!

Regrettably ‘Jai Shri 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 that so much violence should be 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 concernment with, anxious about, the fate of our nation.

With best regards,

Yours sincerely”