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49 Indian celebrities pen open letter to Modi against Muslim lynching

Almost 49 Indian celebrities from various fields penned down an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on July 23 against incidents of Muslim lynching across the country.

Celebrities ranging from actor Konkona Sen and singer Shubha Mudgal to filmmaker Anurag Kashyap have demanded “exemplary punishment” for the criminals which must be carried out “swiftly and surely.”

The letter reads, “The lynching of Muslims, Dalits and other minorities must be stopped immediately. We were shocked to learn from the NCRB (National Crime Records Bureau) 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.”

“Further, 254 religious identity-based hate crimes were reported between January 1, 2009, and October 29, 2018, where at least 91 persons were killed and 579 were injured (FactChecker.indatabase (October 30, 2018). The Citizen’s Religious Hate-Crime Watch recorded that Muslims, (14 per cent of India’s population) were the victims in 62 per cent of cases, and Christians (2 per cent of the July 23, 2019 population), in 14 per cent of cases. About 90 per cent of these attacks were reported after May 2014, when your government assumed power nationally.”

Although PM Modi has criticized the lynching in the Parliament, these celebrities have called it “not enough.”

“What action has actually been taken against the perpetrators? 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 lynching, which are even more heinous? No citizen should have to live in fear in his/her own country,” the letter further says.

Related: Indian police arrest 25 in latest WhatsApp rumor-led lynching

“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,” the celebrities explain in the letter.

Talking about Article 19, they said “People should not be branded ‘anti-national’ or ‘urban Naxal’ and incarcerated because of dissent against the government. Article 19 of the Constitution of India protects freedom of speech and expression of which dissent is an integral part.”

“Criticising the ruling party does not imply criticising the nation. No ruling party is synonymous with the country where it is in power. It is only one of the political parties of that country. Hence anti-government stands cannot be equated with anti-national sentiments. An open environment where dissent is not crushed only makes for a stronger nation,” it adds.

Related: Indian police arrest 11 for torturing Muslim man to death

The celebrities concluded the open letter with “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.”

This open letter came as a reaction of last month’s killing of Tabrez Ansari who had been accused by villagers for  carrying out a burglary. He was tied to a pole and beaten for up to 12 hours before police first detained him in Seraikela, and then took him to a hospital — where he later died.

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