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‘Our Letter Was Just An Appeal, Why This FIR?’: Shyam Benegal on Sedition Case against Celebrities

The FIR was lodged in Muzaffarpur against the celebrities that also included Anurag Kashyap, Aparna Sen, Mani Ratnam, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Soumitra Chatterjee, Shubha Mudgal and historian Ramchandra Guha.

PTI

Updated:October 4, 2019, 11:26 PM IST
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‘Our Letter Was Just An Appeal, Why This FIR?’: Shyam Benegal on Sedition Case against Celebrities
file photo of Shyam Benegal

Mumbai: Veteran filmmaker Shyam Benegal, who is among the 49 celebrities against whom an FIR has been lodged for alleged sedition, on Friday said the case makes "no sense" as their open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi voicing concern over growing incidents of mob lynching was just an appeal and not any threat.

The FIR was lodged in Muzaffarpur against the celebrities that also included Anurag Kashyap, Aparna Sen, Mani Ratnam, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Soumitra Chatterjee, Shubha Mudgal and historian Ramchandra Guha.

Benegal said their letter addressed to Modi in July was just an appeal and not a threat that will disturb peace. "The letter was just an appeal. Whatever the motive of the people, who are accepting the FIR and charging us with all kinds of things, it makes no sense to me. It was a letter appealing to the prime minister. It is not a threat or anything that will cause disturbance of peace or enmity between community," said the director.

"It is a question of why it (FIR) was accepted. What is the meaning of it? Is it a threat to the PM or to the government or anyone? There is nothing. It is just an appeal. So why an FIR? What is the meaning of it," he said.

The letter had said that the lynching of Muslims, Dalits and other minorities must be stopped immediately, while stressing there was "no democracy without dissent". It also noted that the 'Jai Shri Ram' slogan was reduced to a "provocative war cry".

When asked about it, Aparna Sen refused to comment saying the matter is "sub-judice".

Kerala filmmaker Gopalakrishnan said he is in "total disbelief" after the case of sedition was filed against him and other personalities.

"Will any court admit such a petition based on writing a letter which was meant to express ones fears about the happenings in the country? And, if the news is true that a court has admitted it, then one will have to really suspect the legal system," he added.

The FIR was lodged on Thursday under several sections of the Indian Penal Code, including those related to sedition, public nuisance, hurting religious feelings and insulting with an intent to provoke breach of peace.

Former Congress President Rahul Gandhi, who visited his constituency in Wayanad to express solidarity with the protesters opposing the night traffic ban on the national highway, in reply to a question on Friday said things have reached a stage that people are being arrested for speaking against Modi.

"The country is moving towards an authoritarian state and people who speak against the government or the Prime Minister are being put in jail, the media is being crushed. Presently an ideological fight is going on in the country and it's about if the country be ruled by one person and one ideology and all the others should shut their mouth," said Gandhi.

Congress MP Shashi Tharoor described it as "a shocking and chilling development".

"Does Article 19 of the Constitution have no meaning for a police officer and a Chief Judicial Magistrate?" he questioned in a tweet. "Where is our democracy heading if free expression is countered by this kind of 'legal' harassment?"

Article 19 of the Constitution guarantees freedom on speech and expression to citizens.

Wayanad MP Rahul Gandhi said there were two ideologies in the country — one nurtured the idea that the nation be ruled by "one man, one ideology", while the other was against crushing of different expressions and voices.

"On one side, there is the idea that the country should be ruled by one man, one ideology and everybody else should shut up. On the other side, there is the Congress party and the Opposition, who are saying no (to this) and that this country has many divergent views, different languages, cultures, many different expressions and those voices should not be crushed. That is the main battle going on in the country," he said.

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