Kerala filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan is in "total disbelief" after a case of sedition was filed against him and the 48 signatories of an open letter sent to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in July that expressed concern over growing incidents of mob killings and the alleged weaponisation of the "Jai Shri Ram" slogan that made headlines in Bengal during national elections this year.
"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... it is against the spirit of that letter to read it like that, " Mr Gopalakrishnan, 78, told NDTV, adding, "When someone criticises the government it is not sedition. We are living in a democracy".
Mr Gopalakrishnan, who had been told by BJP spokesman B Gopalakrishnan to shift to the Moon if he did not want to hear "Jai Shri Ram" slogans, also said the letter had been written with "all respect to our democratic values" and represented "plurality of opinions".
"This is a letter written in a positive tone and with all respect to our democratic values. In a democracy like ours, what the letter said represented plurality of opinions. This must not be misinterpreted as sedition," he explained, adding, "Until the moment we believe there is no democracy existing... until that moment... we believe we have a role in the running of this country".
The open letter had demanded the mob killing of Muslims, Dalits and other minorities must be stopped immediately and stressed that there was "no democracy without dissent".
"When something terrible is happening and it goes unchecked like mass lynching... of really poor people... on suspected cases of going to kill a cow... Whatever we said, we didn't invent it. It's going on in front of our eyes. And no one is checking," Mr Gopalakrishan lamented.
The case against Mr Gopalakrishnan and the signatories, who include historian Ramachandra Guha and filmmakers Mani Ratnam and Aparna Sen, has been lodged at a police station in Bihar's Muzaffarpur district.
According to Sudhir Kumar Ojha, the advocate who filed the case, the signatories allegedly "tarnished the image of the country and undermined the impressive performance of the Prime Minister" besides "supporting secessionist tendencies".
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi today spoke out in support of the signatories and slammed the centre for imprisoning "anybody who says anything against the Prime Minister".
"Everybody knows what is going on in the country. It's not a secret. In fact the whole world knows it. We are moving into an authoritarian state. It's pretty clear," said the Wayanad MP.