Civil society’s concern

Published : Aug 10, 2019 07:00 IST

Activists  of the Association for Protection of Democratic Rights stage a protest in Kolkata on June 26 against the killing of Tabrez Ansari.

Activists of the Association for Protection of Democratic Rights stage a protest in Kolkata on June 26 against the killing of Tabrez Ansari.

WITH the opposition yet to find its voice after the heavy drubbing it got in the Lok Sabha election, it is left to civil society of seasoned academics, illustrious film-makers, historians and social activists to focus the nation’s attention on the increasing incidents of lynching since Narendra Modi began his second innings. Nearly 50 luminaries from the world of cinema, art, activism and literature have written to the Prime Minister, drawing his attention to the misuse of the name of Rama to kill the innocent. “Ram is sacred for the majority community, stop defiling the name of Ram,” states the letter, signed by Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Aparna Sen, Anurag Kashyap, Binayak Sen, Ramchandra Guha, Goutam Ghose, Mani Rathnam, Shyam Benegal, Ketan Mehta and Shubha Mudgal, among others. They reiterated that about 90 per cent of the lynching cases had taken place after Modi assumed power in 2014.

“The lynching of Muslims, Dalits and other minorities must be stopped immediately. We were shocked to learn from the NCRB [National Crime Records Bureau] 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. You have criticised such lynchings in Parliament Mr Prime Minister, but that is not enough. What action has actually been taken against the perpetrators?” the agitated film-makers and artists ask, adding, “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…. We strongly feel such offences should be made non-bailable. If life sentence without parole can be the sentence in cases of murder, why not for lynchings which are even more heinous?”

They did not confine themselves to instances of lynching, but drew the attention of the Prime Minister to a tendency to curb free speech and dub anybody who criticises the government as anti-national.

“Our Constitution describes India as a secular, socialist, democratic republic where citizens of all religions, ethnicities, gender and castes are equal. There is no democracy without dissent. People should not be branded as anti-national or urban naxal and incarcerated because of dissent against the government. Article 19 of the Constitution of India protects freedom of speech and expression, of which dissent is an integral part. Criticising the ruling party does not mean criticising the nation. No ruling party is synonymous with the country. Anti-government stands cannot be equated with anti-national sentiments.”

Ziya Us Salam

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