Forty-nine eminent personalities, including historian Ramchandra Guha and filmmakers Mani Ratnam and Aparna Sen, have been named in a first information report after a complaint was filed against them for writing a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi about mob attacks and lynchings, PTI reported on Thursday.

In their letter to Modi in July the public figures claimed that the “Jai Shri Ram” slogan had become a “provocative war cry” and the reason for a number of lynchings. Now, they have been accused of tarnishing “the image of the country”, and undermining “the impressive performance of the prime minister” besides “supporting secessionist tendencies”.

According to unidentified police officials, the FIR was lodged in Muzaffarpur district under Indian Penal Code sections related to sedition, public nuisance, hurting religious feelings and insulting with an intent to provoke breach of peace. The charges were reportedly registered after an order by Chief Judicial Magistrate Surya Kant Tiwari, who ruled on a petition filed by advocate Sudhir Kumar Ojha.

“The CJM had passed the order on August 20, accepting my petition upon the receipt of which an FIR was lodged today at the Sadar police station here,” the lawyer told PTI. has reached out to Muzaffarpur Senior Superintendet of Police Manoj Kumar for a comment and will update the article when he replies.

Some of the other prominent names who signed the letter are filmmakers Anurag Kashyap, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Shyam Benegal, author Amit Chaudhuri, scholar Ashis Nandy, and actor Konkona Sen Sharma.

“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,” the signatories had told the prime minister. “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.”

They 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 49 public figures wrote. “No ruling party is synonymous with the country where it is in power.”

In recent months there have been a series of mob attacks on people for allegedly not chanting “Jai Shri Ram”. In the most recent case, on July 21, two Muslim men in Maharashtra’s Aurangabad city were allegedly threatened and forced to chant “Jai Shri Ram” by unidentified people.

On June 18, a Muslim man identified as Tabrez Ansari was beaten in Jharkhand’s Seraikela Kharsawan district for allegedly attempting to steal a motorcycle. According to the FIR, the mob forced Ansari to chant “Jai Shri Ram” and “Jai Hanuman”. He died four days later.

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