As many as 185 celebrities, including authors, actors and dancers, have endorsed an open letter written by 49 personalities to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, expressing concern about incidences of mob lynchings in the country, NewsClick reported on Friday. They also condemned a first information report filed against the 49 personalities in a Muzaffarpur court last week.

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 185 signatories included actor Naseeruddin Shah, dancer Mallika Sarabhai, authors Ashok Vajpeyi, Nayantara Sahgal and Shashi Deshpande, historian Romila Thapar, and artist Vivan Sundaram.

“An FIR has been lodged against forty-nine of our colleagues in the cultural community, simply because they performed their duty as respected members of civil society,” their statement said. “They wrote an open letter to the prime minister, expressing concern about mob lynching in our country. Can this be called an act of sedition? Or is harassment by misusing the courts a ploy to silence citizens’ voices?”

The signatories said they condemned such harassment, and backed every word the 49 personalities had written in the letter to Modi. They added that “more of us will speak every day” against mob lynching, the silencing of people’s voices and the misuse of courts to harass citizens.

The Bihar Police had on Sunday clarified that the case filed against 49 individuals was on the basis of a court order. State Police chief Gupteshwar Pandey’s remarks came a day after Union minister Prakash Javadekar said that the case was not filed by the central government.

The 49 personalities included historian Ramachandra Guha, actor Konkana Sen Sharma, and filmmakers Mani Ratnam and Aparna Sen. In their letter to Modi in July, they had 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”.

Meanwhile, political parties and film organisations on Sunday demanded that the authorities withdraw the sedition case against the individuals. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Kerala State Chalachitra Academy along with the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the Congress and many others condemned the move.

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