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Cultural community condemns FIR against celebrities who wrote to PM Modi

The personalities questioned how writing an open letter to the Prime Minister could be called 'an act of sedition'

By PTI in Mumbai

  • Published 8.10.19, 1:32 PM
  • Updated 8.10.19, 2:49 PM
An FIR was filed against personalities, including directors Aparna Sen, Adoor Gopalakrishnan (in picture) and writer-columnist Ramchandra Guha for alleged sedition over a letter they wrote to the PM in July
An FIR was filed against personalities, including directors Aparna Sen, Adoor Gopalakrishnan (in picture) and writer-columnist Ramchandra Guha for alleged sedition over a letter they wrote to the PM in July Telegraph picture

Over 180 members of the cultural community, including actor Naseeruddin Shah, cinematographer Anand Pradhan, historian Romila Thapar and activist Harsh Mander, among others, condemned the FIR lodged against 49 celebrities for an open letter they wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor too has written to the Prime Minister over the FIR against the 49 celebrities, saying those criticising the PM should not be considered "anti-nationals."

"Those who criticise or have opposing views to yours should not be deemed enemies or anti-national. Without criticism there can be no improvement. If we are all blind to the problems that exists and impact Indian citizens, we risk becoming an authoritarian regime, contrary to the values enshrined in our Constitution," Tharoor said.

Last week, an FIR was filed in Bihar's Muzaffarpur against personalities, including directors Aparna Sen, Adoor Gopalakrishnan and writer-columnist Ramchandra Guha for alleged sedition over a letter they wrote to the Prime Minister in July, voicing concerns over growing incidents of mob lynching.

In a new letter issued on Monday, the eminent personalities questioned how writing an open letter to the Prime Minister could be called "an act of sedition."

"An FIR has been lodged against forty-nine of our colleagues in the cultural community, simply because they performed their duty as respected members of a civil society. They wrote an open letter to the Prime Minister, expressing concern about mob lynching in our country. Can this be called an act of sedition? Or is harassment by misusing the courts a ploy to silence citizens' voices?" the letter read.

The signatories, which also include writers Ashok Vajpeyi and Jerry Pinto, academician Ira Bhaskar, poet Jeet Thayil, author Shamsul Islam, musician T. M. Krishna and filmmaker-activist Saba Dewan, promised they will continue to speak up against silencing of "people's voices."

"All of us, as members of the Indian cultural community, as citizens of conscience, condemn such harassment. We do more: we endorse every word of the letter our colleagues wrote to the Prime Minister,” the letter read.

"This is why we share their letter here once again, and appeal to the cultural, academic and legal communities to do the same. This is why more of us will speak every day. Against mob lynching. Against the silencing of people's voices. Against the misuse of courts to harass citizens," the letter added.

In his letter, the Congress MP from Thiruvananthapuram urged Modi to take a public stand welcoming dissent and assure the nation of his "commitment to upholding Freedom of Expression even when it involves disagreement with you or your government."

"As citizens of India, we hope that every one of us can fearlessly bring to your notice, issues of national importance so that you can take the lead to address them. We would like to believe that you too would support the right to freedom of expression so that the 'mann ki baat' of the well-meaning citizens of India does not turn into a 'maun ki baat," he said.

Tharoor said: "Mob lynching, whether triggered by communal hatred or triggered by rumours of child kidnapping, has become a disease that is spreading rapidly, and these citizens did the right thing in bringing it to your notice."

Tharoor also pointed out that Modi while addressing a joint meeting of the US Congress in 2016, had said the Constitution was a "real holy book" of his government.

"However, some of the actions of your government have contradicted your statement. Does this mean that you have changed your opinion on these fundamental issues?" Tharoor asked.

The former Union minister also wanted to know since when had writing a letter to the elected leader of the country become the trigger for an FIR.

"In the Naya Bharat that you have promised the nation, are FIRs going to be filed every time a citizen is critical of the government or its policies? Is this Naya Bharat that you wish to create, one where citizens shall not be heard and their concerns not addressed?" the Congress leader questioned.

The FIR in the matter was lodged on October 3 under several sections of the Indian Penal Code, including those related to sedition, public nuisance, hurting religious feelings and insulting with intent to provoke breach of peace.

The 49 personalities, including filmmakers Mani Ratnam, Anurag Kashyap, Shyam Benegal, actor Soumitra Chatterjee and vocalist Shubha Mudgal, were accused of having "tarnished the image of the country and undermined the impressive performance of the Prime Minister," besides "supporting secessionist tendencies."

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