The controversy over sedition charges against celebrities who had written to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi about mob lynchings took a new turn after as many as 185 members of the cultural community of India, including actor Naseeruddin Shah, dancer Mallika Sarabhai, author Nayantara Sahgal, historian Romila Thapar, singer TM Krishna, and artist Vivan Sundaram, came out in support of the open letter.
An FIR was filed in Muzaffarpur in Bihar on Thursday, October 3rd, against nearly 50 eminent personalities, including Ramchandra Guha, Mani Ratnam, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, and Aparna Sen, who had previously written to Modi in condemnation of the increasing incidence of mob lynchings and communal violence in the country.
As reported by ANI, the petition claimed that the celebrities had allegedly tarnished the image of the country and undermined Modi’s impressive performance, apart from allegedly supporting secessionist tendencies.
But the cultural community of India has taken a strong stand against this FIR and has released a statement against it saying, “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 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?
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. 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.”
This seeming violation of the right to free speech is even more concerning as under the curent mood of nationalism in India, anything being said, which remotely criticizes the government is being taken as an attempt to tear apart the country – forming the charge of sedition.
How a letter, expressing concern over lynchings and the weaponisation of terms like ‘Jai Shri Ram’ can become a criminal offence, and that too, of sedition?
While Bollywood has gone forward to promote Prime Minister Modi in every step possible, it now needs to rise as one in support of their colleauges who now face the tained charge of creating divides in the country.