An open letter was sent to Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the growing incidents of lynching in the country. As many as 49 celebrities from different fields joined hands to raise the issue. From singer Shubha Mudgal, actor Konkona Sen Sharma to filmmakers Shyam Benegal, Anurag Kashyap and Mani Ratnam, among others, have all endorsed the open letter.

In the letter, the celebrities have said that “exemplary punishment” should be given “swiftly and surely” in such cases. “The lynching of Muslims, Dalits and other minorities must be stopped immediately. We were shocked to learn from the NCRB (National Crime Records Bureau) reports 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,” the letter read.

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“Further, 254 religious identity-based hate crimes were reported between January 1, 2009, and October 29, 2018, where at least 91 persons were killed and 579 were injured (October 30, 2018). The Citizen’s Religious Hate-Crime Watch recorded that Muslims, (14 percent of India’s population) were the victims in 62 percent of cases, and Christians (2 percent of the July 23, 2019 population), in 14 per cent of cases. About 90 per cent of these attacks were reported after May 2014, when your government assumed power nationally.”

“Jai Shri Ram” turned into “provocative war-cry”

According to the celebrities, Prime Minister Modi criticises lynching cases in Parliament but that’s “not enough” done.

If life imprisonment without parole can be the sentence in cases of murder, why not for lynching, which are even more heinous?

“What action has actually been taken against the perpetrators? We strongly feel that such offences should be declared non-bailable, and that exemplary punishment should be meted out swiftly and surely. If life imprisonment without parole can be the sentence in cases of murder, why not for lynching, which are even more heinous? No citizen should have to live in fear in his/her own country,” the letter further read.

“It is shocking that so much violence should be perpetrated in the name of religion! 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,” they said in the letter.

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“Mob lynching has become an epidemic in the country today, and I don’t think we can turn our face away from this harsh reality. There’s no point in falsifying it,” actor Swara Bhaskar said addressing the press.

The actor further added to the discussion saying, “Mob lynching has become an epidemic in the country today, and I don’t think we can turn our face away from this harsh reality. There’s no point in falsifying it.”

“It is very important that district authorities, where such incidents happen, take full accountability in the matter. I believe that the PM who has the power to do it will look into the matter,” she was quoted as saying by ANI.

“Mob lynching is wrong, and if anyone is voicing their concern on the matter, their ideology or inclination shouldn’t matter. I wholeheartedly support the artistes, filmmakers, people who have written this letter,” she said affirming her support to the sentiment of 49 eminent personalities who wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi drawing his attention towards the same on Wednesday.

“Criticising the ruling party does not imply criticising the nation. No ruling party is synonymous with the country when it is in power. It is only one of the political parties of that country.”

No democracy without dissent

“People should not be branded ‘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,” the letter read.

“Criticising the ruling party does not imply criticising the nation. No ruling party is synonymous with the country when it is in power. It is only one of the political parties of that country. Hence anti-government stands cannot be equated with anti-national sentiments. An open environment where dissent is not crushed only makes for a stronger nation,” it added.

The celebrities concluded the letter saying, “We hope our suggestions will be taken in the spirit that they are meant – as Indians genuinely concerned with, and anxious about, the fate of our nation.”

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