New Delhi: Forty-nine eminent personalities including historian Ramchandra Guha and filmmakers Aparna Sen and Mani Ratnam 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.
“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.
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.
Others who signed the letter include filmmaker Anurag Kashyap and social activist Anuradha Kapoor, social worker Aditi Basu and author Amit Chaudhury.