New Delhi: Filmmakers, activists and scholars are among 49 eminent personalities who have written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to highlight "a number of tragic events in recent times", particularly incidents of lynching and the usage of the slogan “Jai Shri Ram” as a "war cry".
The letter, signed by noted personalities such as Aparna Sen, Adoor Gopalakrishnan and Shyam Benegal among others reads: “Dear Prime Minister... 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 added, “You have criticised such lynchings in parliament Mr Prime Minister, but that is not enough... We strongly feel that such offences should be declared non-bailable...”
Interestingly, the letter comes on a day when the Ministry of Home Affairs told Parliament that incidents of communal violence showed a “declining trend”. The ministry added that the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) does not maintain records of lynching but the advisories were issued to states and Union Territories to maintain law and order. It also said the government was working towards spreading awareness on the issue of mob lynching through audio-visual aids.
Further, the 49 personalities decried the use of the ‘Jai Shree Ram’ slogan as a “war cry”, saying it “leads to law and order problems, and many lynchings take place in its name”. “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," the letter said.
They added that “no ruling party is synonymous with the country where it is in power… 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.” "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," it said.