In the backdrop of two rape incidents in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kathua and Uttar Pradesh’s Unnao, hundreds of academics and independent scholars from India and abroad on Saturday wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying there was an undeniable link between the ruling dispensation and violence against minorities. They also said they endorsed the opinion expressed by 49 former civil servants who held Modi responsible “more than anyone else” for the “terrifying state of affairs” in the country.
In the Unnao case, a BJP MLA from Uttar Pradesh, Kuldeep Singh Sengar, is accused of raping a teenager in June 2017. In Kathua, eight people are accused of abducting, sedating, repeatedly raping and murdering an eight-year-old in January.
“We wish to express our deep anger and anguish over the events in Kathua and Unnao and the aftermath of these events,” the letter, which has been signed by 637 academics and scholars, read. “[We wish to express our deep anger and anguish] over the efforts, in both cases, of those administering the relevant states to protect the alleged perpetrators of these monstrous crimes; over the subsequent profoundly distasteful efforts of rationalisation, deflection and diversion that have been so much in evidence in the reactions of your party’s spokespersons in the media; and finally over your own prolonged [and by now familiar] silence that was broken only recently with wholly inadequate, platitudinous, and non-specific assurances of justice for the victims.”
The signatories include Noam Chomsky, (Emeritus) Massachussetts Institute of Technology and University of Arizona, Amiya Kumar Bagchi, (Emeritus), Institute for Development Studies, Kolkata, Arindam Banerjee of Delhi’s Ambedkar University, Sibaji Bandyopadhyay, retired professor of Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Kolkata, Ira Bhaskar, JNU, New Delhi, Paula Chakravartty, New York University, New York, and Jean Dreze of Ranchi University, among others.
They said Kathua and Unnao were not isolated incidents but part of “a pattern of repeated targeted attacks on minority religious communities, Dalits, tribals and women”. The signatories added that rape and lynching were instruments of violence used by cow vigilantes. They cited many incidents of attacks and mob lynching, and said most of these have happened in states where the Bharatiya Janata Party is in power.
“This is not to associate violence exclusively with your party and with state governments presided over by your party,” read the letter. “But there is an undeniable association with the ruling dispensation.”