NEW DELHI: Expressing displeasure over the FIR lodged against 49 Indian celebrities for writing a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor has written a letter to the PM.
In his letter, Tharoor has urged the Prime Minister 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 him or his government.
"We are deeply disturbed by the FIR filed in Muzaffarpur, Bihar against a group of 49 concerned Indian citizens who wrote a letter to you on July 23rd, 2019, highlighting the rise of mob lynching in the country. Mob lynching, whether triggered by communal hatred or triggered by rumours about child kidnapping has become a disease that is spreading rapidly, and these citizens did the right thing in bringing it to your notice," Tharoor said in his letter.
The Kerala MP has asked the PM to protect the values embedded in the Constitution including Fundamental Right of Freedom of Speech and Expression embedded under Article 19 (1)(a).
"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 added.
Tharoor also added that India is built on its diversity.
"Our great country is built on the bedrock of coexistence of diverse, and often diverging views and ideologies. That is what makes India a successful and vibrant democracy. Those who criticise or have opposing views to yours should not be deemed enemies or anti-national” Tharoor said.
The Congress leader also reminded the Prime Minister about his address to the joint meeting of the US Congress in 2016, where he talked of Constitution as the only holy book of his government and freedom of faith, speech and franchise as fundamental rights.
"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?" The Congress leader asked.
Tharoor, in his letter, also asks Modi, Since when has written a letter of concern to the elected leader of the country, who is responsible for the welfare of each of its citizens irrespective of their caste, creed, gender, religion, or political opinion — become the trigger for an FIR.
“Is the 'Naya Bharat' that you wish to create one where citizens shall not be heard and their concerns not addressed? Is the 'Naya Bharat' that you envision one where all parties and individuals disagreeing with the ruling majority will be outlawed and treated as enemies of the state? Is the 'Naya Bharat' that you proclaim one where journalists are arrested for exposing failures of governance?" he asked.
On October 3, a First Information Report (FIR) was filed against nearly 50 celebrities, who had written an open letter to Prime Minister Modi, raising their concern over growing incidents of mob lynching.
The Bihar police have lodged FIR against nearly 50 celebrities, including singer Shubha Mudgal, actor Konkona Sen Sharma and filmmakers Shyam Benegal, Anurag Kashyap and Mani Ratnam.
The police said the FIR was lodged under sections of the Indian Penal Code, including those relating to sedition, public nuisance, hurting religious feelings and insulting with an intent to provoke breach of peace.
The case was filed after a chief judicial magistrate passed an order on a petition filed against the celebrities before his court.
The petition had claimed that the celebrities allegedly tarnished the image of the country and undermined the impressive performance of the prime minister besides supporting secessionist tendencies.
On July 23, as many as 49 celebrities from different fields had written an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi over incidents of lynching in the country. The celebrities had said that exemplary punishment should be meted out ‘swiftly and surely’ in such cases.
The celebrities have highlighted that 'Jai Shri Ram' has become a provocative war-cry in the present day that 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," they had said in the letter.
The celebrities had 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."
The other names mentioned in the letter are social worker Aditi Basu, filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan, author Amit Chaudhury, filmmaker Anjan Dutt, singer Anupam Roy, social activist Anuradha Kapoor, filmmaker Aparna Sen, Asha Achy Joseph, scholar-sociologist Ashis Nandy, floral designer Baisakhi Ghosh, physician Binayak Sen, social activist Bolan Gangopadhyay, environmentalist Bonani Kakkar, designer Chitra Sirkar, Weavers Studio founder Darshan Shah, cardiologist Debal Sen, filmmaker Goutam Ghose, Calcutta Walks founder CEO Iftekhar Ahsan, artist Jayasri Burman, environmentalist Joya Mitra, actor Kani Kusruti, film and theatre personality Kaushik Sen, filmmaker Ketan Mehta, Mudar Patherya, sculptor Narayan Sinha, Seagull Publications publisher Naveen Kishore, and filmmaker Parambrata Chattopadhyay..
The names of Historian Partha Chatterjee, researcher Piya Chakraborty, PUBLIC founder Pradeep Kakkar, historian Ramchandra Guha, mental health activist Ratnaboli Ray, filmmaker Revathy Asha, actor Riddhi Sen, musician Rupam Islam, Kolkata Sukriti Foundation director Rupsha Dasgupta, theatre personality Sakti Roy Chowdhury, scholar Samik Banerjee, surgeon Shivaji Basu, actor Soumitra Chatterjee, filmmaker Suman Ghosh, historian Sumit Sarkar, historian Tanika Sarkar and cardiac surgeon Tapas Roychaudhury are also in the letter.