- 49 eminent personalities have written to PM Modi
- In an open letter, they refer to the recent incidents of lynching
- Such incidents "must be stopped immediately," reads the letter
Forty-nine eminent personalities including filmmaker Aparna Sen and historian Ramachandra Guha have written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, drawing his attention to "a number of tragic events" recently, including incidents of lynching, and the alleged weaponisation of the slogan "Jai Shri Ram" into a "war cry".
"Dear Prime Minister... 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," said the letter also signed by actor Aparna Sen and historian Ramachandra Guha, among others.
"You have criticised such lynchings in parliament Mr Prime Minister, but that is not enough... We strongly feel that such offences should be declared non-bailable..." the letter said.
At a press conference, Aparna Sen again condemned lynchings and said this has nothing to do with politics. "The lynchings of minorities is wrong. It is not about party or politics. Our letter has no political colour. We just want him (PM Modi) to intervene."
She went on to say that her concern is not lynchings of people from any particular community but the lynching of human beings irrespective of religion.
"Human lynching is our concern. Our objection is against lynchings be it against Muslims or Hindus," Ms Sen said.
PM Modi had in June condemned in parliament the lynching of a 24-year-old man in Jharkhand, and asserted that whether it is Jharkhand, or West Bengal or Kerala, incidents of violence should be treated in the same manner and perpetrators of violence get a lesson that the entire country is one on this issue.
"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," the letter said.
"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..." the letter said.
"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," it said.
Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee supported the citizens' letter and said they were "quite right".
"I respect them. I think whatever they have said is quite right. Whatever they have said today, I have been saying it for a long time," Ms Banerjee told reporters.
She also said she has respect for every slogan, whether it is a religious one or not.
Others who signed the letter include filmmakers Anurag Kashyap and Mani Ratnam, social activist Anuradha Kapoor, social worker Aditi Basu and author Amit Chaudhury.