Eighty-nine eminent personalities on Tuesday joined their counterparts who had last month urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to stop mob lynchings in the country and expressed solidarity with them.
The signatories include a group of artists, economists, academics, filmmakers and writers. They include artists Vivan Sundaram, Atul Dodiya, Veer Munshi, Nalini Malani, Arpana Caur, historians Irfan Habib, Sohail Hashmi, Amar Farooqui, Atlury Murali, Arjun Dev, economists Jayati Ghosh, Vikas Rawal, CP Chandrasekhar, filmmaker Anand Patwardhan, writers Ashok Vajpeyi, Arun Kamal, Om Thanvi,Udayan Vajpeyi, Dhruv Shukla, Naresh Saxena and media personality Sashi Kumar, among others.
“We the following artists, academics, theatre persons, writers and activists fully endorse the dissenting voice raised by our colleagues and express solidarity with their statement that expresses concern and alarm at the increasing violence being generated against the minorities and Dalits within the nation’s politics,” their statement read.
They attached the letter signed by 49 personalities that told Modi that the “Jai Shri Ram” slogan had become a “provocative war cry” and the reason for a number of lynchings in the country.
“The lynching of Muslims, Dalits and other minorities must be stopped immediately,” the earlier letter had said. “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... 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 49 signatories had said there was no democracy without dissent, and therefore people should not be branded “anti-national” or “urban Naxal” and incarcerated. “Criticising the ruling party does not imply criticising the nation,” the letter said. “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.”
“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,” the 89 personalities said.
On July 29, 14 noted personalities had expressed their disagreement with these group of intellectuals. They strongly condemned the statement issued and said that such statements cause an adverse effect on the harmonious atmosphere of the country and asked the 49 personalities to come out of their negative mentality.
Prior to that, 62 personalities, in a counter-statement, alleged that the signatories to the letter were guilty of “selective outrage and false narrative”. These personalities included actor Kangana Ranaut, lyricist Prasoon Joshi, dancer and MP Sonal Mansingh, and filmmakers Madhur Bhandarkar and Vivek Agnihotri.
Over the past few months, several people have faced violence or been lynched by mobs because they allegedly refused to chant “Jai Shri Ram”.
On July 29, unidentified individuals allegedly set a 15-year-old Muslim boy on fire in Chandauli district of Uttar Pradesh for refusing to chant “Jai Shri Ram”. On July 21, two Muslim men in Maharashtra’s Aurangabad city were allegedly threatened and forced to chant “Jai Shri Ram” by unidentified people. The month before, a Muslim man identified as Tabrez Ansari died after was beaten up in Jharkhand’s Seraikela Kharsawan district on June 18 for allegedly attempting to steal a motorcycle. The FIR said the mob had also forced Ansari to chant “Jai Shri Ram” and “Jai Hanuman”.