South actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan has sought the Supreme Court's intervention in the matter of a first information report (FIR) filed against the 49 eminent personalities who wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. "The Prime Minister seeks a harmonious India. His statements in parliament confirm it. Should not the state and its law follow it in letter and spirit? 49 of my peers have been accused, of sedition, contradicting the PM's aspirations," Kamal Haasan tweeted today.
"I request, as a citizen, that our Supreme Court move in to uphold justice with democracy and quash the case emanating from Bihar," he added.
I request as a citizen that Our Higher courts move in to uphold justice with Democracy and quash the case eminating from Bihar. (2/2)— Kamal Haasan (@ikamalhaasan) October 8, 2019
In July, 49 intellectuals, artists and celebrities, including historian Ramachandra Guha and filmmakers Aparna Sen and Mani Ratnam, wrote to Prime Minister Modi to express concern over growing incidents of mob killing and the alleged weaponisation of the "Jai Shri Ram" slogan that made headlines in Bengal during national elections this year.
The letter said that the mob killing of Muslims, Dalits and other minorities must be stopped immediately, while stressing that there was "no democracy without dissent".
Last week a case was lodged in Bihar's Muzaffarpur district against the 49 authors of that letter. According to Bihar Police, they have been charged under several sections of the Indian Penal Code, including that relating to sedition.
The charges left Kerala filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan, one of the signatories, "in total disbelief". "What is happening to us? I heard about this in total disbelief because I cannot imagine any court admitting a case of sedition against that letter," Mr Gopalakrishnan told NDTV,
Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) chief Kamal Haasan is the second political leader to urge that the FIR filed against the 49 personalities be dropped.
On Monday, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor wrote to PM Modi declaring himself "deeply disturbed" by the FIR and urged the Prime Minister to "affirm the constitutional principle of Article 19" and guarantee freedom of speech and expression.
In a two-page letter he posted on social media, he also reminded PM Modi of a powerful speech made before the US Congress in 2016, in which the Prime Minister called the Constitution a "holy book" and said "... freedom of faith, speech... and equality of all citizens, regardless of background, are enshrined as fundamental rights".
The filing of the FIR against the authors of the letter had also been criticised by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, who said, "We are moving into an authoritarian state".
"Anybody who says anything against the Prime Minister, anybody who raises anything against the government is put in jail and is attacked," he said on Friday.