Expressing concerns over the rise in the number of mob lynchings and the religious persecution of minorities in the name of religion in the country, 49 activists, filmmakers and artists have written an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Among the signatories are eminent directors Adoor Gopalkrishnan, Shyam Benegal, Mani Ratnam, Anurag Kashyap and actors Aparna Sen, Konkona Sensharma and Riddhi Sen.
The letter urges PM Modi to take action against the perpetrators of such mob lynchings. The artists said that even though Modi had criticised such lynchings, it wasn’t enough. “If life imprisonment without parole can be the sentence in cases of murder, why not for lynchings, which are even more heinous? No citizen should live in fear in his/her own country,” the letter read.
The artists also expressed regret over how ‘Jai Shri Ram’ had become a provocative war-cry. “Ram is sacred for the majority community, stop defiling the name of Ram.” A 35-year-old Muslim man lodged a complaint at a West Bengal police station on Tuesday alleging that he was thrashed after he refused to say ‘Jai Shri Ram’.
Last month, a man in Jharkhand died in the hospital after he was beaten by a mob on suspicion of theft. A video of the incident showed that Tabrez Ansari, the victim, had been forced to chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’ by the mob. In the video, Ansari can also be seen saying Jai Shri Ram and pleading with the mob to let him go.
In their open letter to Modi, the activists also talk about the number of lynching cases witnessed in India. According to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data, the letter said, 840 incidents of atrocities against the Dalits had taken place in 2016. It also said that while the number of cases was on the rise, there was a definite decline in the percentage of convictions.
“254 religious identity-based hate crimes were reported between Januray 1, 2009 and October 29, 2018 where at least 91 persons were killed and 579 were injured (Factchecker.in database (October 30, 2018),” The letter stated. It went on to added that 90% of these attacks had been reported after May 2014, when the BJP government assumed power nationally.
On the issue of dissent, the letter said that people should not be branded ‘anti-national’ or ‘urban Naxal’ just because they did not agree with the government. ” There is no democracy without dissent,” said the letter.