62 celebrities write against letter sent to PM over lynching cases

Two days after a group of eminent citizens, including filmmakers, wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi against “religious identity-based hate crimes”, another group of personalities, including Kangana Ranaut, Prasoon Joshi and Madhur Bhandarkar, have penned an open letter against “selective outrage and false narratives”. The open letter has been signed by 61 celebrities, also including classical dancer and MP Sonal Mansingh, instrumentalist Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt and filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri.

The open letter expresses “astonishment” over the letter sent by 49 eminent citizens, including filmmakers and historians, to Modi on July 23, calling its signatories “self-styled guardians conscience-keepers of the nation”.

It further alleges that the letter was “aimed at tarnishing India’s international standing”.

“The signatories to the ‘open letter’ have, in the past, kept silent when tribals and the marginalised have become victims of Naxal terror, they have kept silent when separatists have issued dictates (sic) to burn schools in Kashmir, they have kept silent when the demand for dismembering India, for making pieces of her – Tukde Tukde – were made…” it said.

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In the July 23 letter, the group of eminent citizens had contended that ‘Jai Shri Ram’ has become a provocative war cry with many lynchings taking place in its name. The letter was signed by 49 celebrities from various fields, including filmmakers Adoor Gopalakrishnan and Aparna Sen as well as vocalist Shubha Mudgal, historian Ramchandra Guha and sociologist Ashis Nandy.

“We, as peace loving and proud Indians, are deeply concerned about a number of tragic events that have been happening in recent times in our beloved country,” the letter had said Modi.

“The lynching of Muslims, Dalits and other minorities must be stopped immediately. We were shocked to learn from the NCRB 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,” it continued.

The letter also referred to findings of the “FactChecker indatabase” and the”Citizen’s Religious Hate-Crime Watch” and said the number of “religious identity-based hate crimes” had gone up in the last nine years; 62 per cent of the victims belonged to the Muslim community.

“About 90 per cent of these attacks were reported after May 2014, when your government assumed power nationally,” the signatories told the prime minister.

“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,” the letter stated.

Responding to the letter, Union minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi had said that minorities and Dalits are safe in India and criminal incidents should not be communalised.