A group of eminent filmmakers, authors, actors, singers and citizens of different professions from Kolkata and other parts of the country, have written an open letter to the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, over the cases of mob lynching and religious identity-based hatecrimes in the country.
The group of signatories, have taken note of some of the cases of mob lynching, religious hate crimes, law and order problems arising due to ‘Jai Shri Ram’ being made to chant forcefully. They have also highlighted how the attempts of forceful chanting of ‘ Jai Shri Ram’ has led to mob lynching on several occasions.
The members of the think tank have voiced their concerns over the data received from the National Crime Records Bureau revealing that at least 840 cases of atrocities against Dalits were reported in the year 2016 while there was a ‘definite decline in the percentage of convictions.’ Citing data from Citizens’ Hate-Crime Watch, the group has highlighted that the attacks in connection with religious identity-based hate-crimes have taken place after May 2014, the time when the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power nationally.
The group also wrote that criticising the ruling party does not imply criticising the nation and people should not be branded as anti-nationals or ‘urban Naxal.’ They should not be incarcerated because of dissent against the government.
Speaking about the letter, eminent Bengali actor, Soumitra Chatterjee, one of the signatories, expressed solidarity with all the points of the letter, while filmmaker Goutam Ghose, who is another signatory, said, “Our country is very diverse and its beauty lies in its diversity. There have sporadic incidents of quarrel and any kind of conflicts between the communities is not desirable. As the Prime Minister is the head of the state, we wrote the letter to him urging to look into matter so that we live in peace and harmony.”
The eminent citizens of the country in their letter have stated that only criticising the act of lynching is not sufficient but stringent punishment, including life imprisonment, should be given for lynching. The letter also emphasises that being the highest Executive of the country, the Prime Minister must put a stop to the name of Ram (sacred to many in the majority community of India), being defiled in such a manner. The letter has been signed off by mentioning eminent names from Tollywood and Bollywood including Mani Ratnam, Aparna Sen, Anjan Dutt, Rupam Islam, Anurag Kashyap, Shyam Benegal, Subha Mudgal, and so on.
Meanwhile, CM Mamata Banerjee supported the intellectuals saying whatever they have written are genuine things. “I respect them. They have the right to write a letter to the Prime Minister. Whenever country is in trouble, intellectuals have come forward. I don’t disrespect any slogan or any political slogan. Religion is one’s own and all should respect the religion of the other,” she said on the sidelines of Mahanayak Samman at Nazrul Mancha this evening.
On the allegations of the intellectuals being funded by foreign agencies, Miss Banerjee said that the allegations are baseless and incorrect. “You cannot question the credibility of the eminent personalities who wrote the letter. Some people may support you or not. But those who don’t support you are not anti-national. This is a democratic country and everyone has the right to speak. One should not disrespect anyone on the ground of caste creed and religion. I have said the same opinion about intolerance as the intellectuals and I support their letter,” said Miss Banerjee.