Women hold placards and candles during a protest against the recent mob lynchings across the country, in Ahmedabad.(REUTERS)
Women hold placards and candles during a protest against the recent mob lynchings across the country, in Ahmedabad.(REUTERS)

Eminent citizens write to PM on mob violence

The celebrities who come from various fields wrote to the Prime Minister expressing their concern over the rise in hate crimes all over the nation.
By HT Correspondents | Hindustan Times, Kolkata/New Delhi
UPDATED ON JUL 24, 2019 11:40 PM IST

Expressing concern over instances of mob violence in the country, 49 intellectuals, artists and professionals have written an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi asking him to institute exemplary punishment for the perpetrators of such crimes. “The lynching of Muslims, Dalits and other minorities must be stopped immediately,” the letter said.

Signatories to the letter include filmmakers Adoor Gopalkrishnan, Aparna Sen, Mani Ratnam, Shyam Benegal, Ketan Mehta, Gautam Ghose; actors Soumitra Chatterjee, Revathy Asha; author Amit Chaudhuri; historians and academics, Ashis Nandy, Sumit Sarkar, Tanika Sarkar, Partha Chatterjee, Ramchandra Guha; and singer Shubha Mudgal.

The letter prompted an immediate response from Union minority affairs minister, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, who asserted that Dalits and minorities are safe in the country and that those “yet to recover from” the defeat in the Lok Sabha polls are trying to communalise “criminal incidents”.

Acknowledging that the Prime Minister has criticised incidents of lynchings in the Parliament, the letter said it was “not enough”.

“Lynching is a heinous crime. Why should not punishments that are applicable in case of murder be applicable in case of lynchings? The Prime Minister is the highest executive in the country. Who else could we approach?” Aparna Sen told the media.

In the letter, the filmmakers and intellectuals said “Jai Shri Ram” has been reduced to a war cry, referring to recent instances in which those being lynched have allegedly been forced to chant the slogan. The letter also said there is no democracy without dissent and people should not be branded “anti-national” or “urban Naxal” and incarcerated because of dissent against the government.

Naqvi said a few people, who claim to be “custodians of human rights and secularism, are trying to communalise such type of criminal incidents”.

These people are yet to come out of the “depression” after the resounding victory of Modi for a second time and have started the “second edition of award wapsi” movement, he said, referring to 2015, when several people sought to return awards given by the government citing what they claimed was rising intolerance against minorities.

In order to deal with such crimes, law enforcement agencies and state governments have taken effective and strong actions, the minister said.

The letter also called for stronger punishment for instances of lynching.

“We strongly feel that such offences should be declared non-bailable, and that exemplary punishment should be meted out swiftly and surely. If life imprisonment without parole can be the sentence in cases of murder, why not for lynchings, which are even more heinous?” the letter read.

Drawing attention to figures of atrocities against Dalits based on the national crime record bureau, the letter said, “The lynching of Muslims, Dalits and other minorities must be stopped immediately. We were shocked to learn from the NCRB 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.”

Defending his government’s track record, the junior minister of home affairs, G Kishan Reddy told the Rajya Sabha that there has been a decline in the number of incidents of communal violence since 2014. There were 823 incidents of communal violence in 2013, but only 708 in 2018, he told Parliament on Wednesday.

“If intellectuals have said something, it would certainly be considered seriously. The Prime Minister has himself criticised incidents of lynching. But it also needs to be seen how many of the Bengali intellectuals are criticising the terror unleashed by the Trinamool Congress in the state,” said BJP Bengal unit general secretary, Sayantan Basu.

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