Union Minister of Information and Broadcasting Prakash Javadekar said on Tuesday that neither the Bharatiya Janata Party nor the government had anything to do with the first information report filed against 49 individuals, charging them with sedition for writing a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, PTI reported.

“This has nothing to do with the BJP and the government,” Javadekar said. “This is a canard which is always spread to defame the Modi government and used to give an impression that there is a choking of freedom of expression in a draconian fashion under it. This is an absolute falsehood spread by vested interests and tukde-tukde gang.”

Javadekar claimed that spreading falsehood and falsifying facts were old tricks that critics used to defame the Narendra Modi-led government. “This is exactly what is happening in this case,” he said. “This whole gang has network world over. But people know who stands for what.”

Javadekar had said on October 6 that the Centre has not filed any case against the 49 individuals. “One person approached the court and the court has directed its orders. We haven’t done anything in this regard,” he said. The 49 personalities included historian Ramachandra Guha, actor Konkona Sen Sharma, and filmmakers Mani Ratnam and Aparna Sen, among others.

In their letter to Modi in July, the public figures had claimed that the “Jai Shri Ram” slogan had become a “provocative war cry” and the reason for a number of lynchings. A lawyer, Sudhir Kumar Ojha, who claimed that the letter had “tarnished India’s image” and “undermined the impressive performance of the prime minister”, had filed a complaint, after which an FIR was filed.

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 Ojha.

Members of the Students Federation of India and the Democratic Youth Federation of India – the student and youth organisations of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) – in Kerala have sent 1.5 lakh copies of the open letter to Modi. They dared Modi to book them for sending the letter as well. “If they feel the 49 signatories are traitors, please go ahead and book all of us who have sent the same letter,” said DYFI State Secretary AA Rahim. “We are ready to fill the jails for this cause.”

As many as 185 celebrities on Monday endorsed the open letter to Modi and backed the 49 individuals. They also condemned the FIR registered against the celebrities.

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