New Delhi/Kolkata: Forty-nine citizens, mostly associated with the entertainment industry, had written an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday, furthering the ‘intolerance’ argument. The 49 citizens, whom the media identifies as “eminent”, wrote to the prime minister saying that ‘Jai Sri Ram’ had become a provocative war cry.
In the open letter, these individuals emphasised that there was “no democracy without dissent”. The letter dated 23 July claimed that lynchings were taking place in the name of ‘Jai Sri Ram’. The signatories of the letter are Shyam Benegal, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Anurag Kashyap, Aparna Sen and her daughter Konkona Sen Sharma Shorey, vocalist Shubha Mudgal, sports enthusiast-turned-historian Ramchandra Guha and sociologist Ashis Nandy, among others. “We, as peace loving and proud Indians, are deeply concerned about a number of tragic events that have been happening in recent times in our beloved country,” the letter said.
The letter read: “The lynching of Muslims, Dalits and other minorities must be stopped immediately.”
This is how some leading politicians reacted to the letter after social media and right-of-centre television channels panned the letter writers.
Award wapsi gang active again: Giriraj Singh about letter writers
Union Minister Giriraj Singh on Wednesday said the ‘award wapsi‘ gang has become active again to destabilise the Narendra Modi government.
“Where were these people who are raising questions of mob lynching when Kairana (UP) MLA recently asked Muslims not to buy goods from shops of Hindus. Why they remained silent?” Singh, minister for fisheries, animal husbandry and dairying, asked reporters.
To queries about the letter, the senior BJP leader said it seemed the ‘award wapsi’ gang had become active again. He was referring to celebrities who had returned government awards during the previous term of the Modi regime to protest against alleged intolerance. “The award wapsi gang has once again become active to destabilise and defame the Modi government,” the minister said.
I have been saying it for long: Mamata about letter writers
The West Bengal Chief Minister was, however, impressed by the group’s letter. After the expressed concern at the number of “religious identity-based hate crimes” in a letter to the prime minister, Mamata Banerjee said on Wednesday that whatever they stated was “quite right” and that she had been “saying it for a long. Whenever the country is in a problem, whenever there is a need for social enlightenment, these prominent personalities come to the fore and inspire people, Banerjee said.
“I have seen many a time what several speeches could not do, one song did more than that,” the Trinamool head said. “I respect them. I think whatever they have said is quite right. Whatever they have said today, I have been saying it for a long time,” Banerjee told reporters in Kolkata.
The chief minister said she was a Hindu but that did not mean that she would hate a Christian. “I love all the religions,” she said.
The chief minister said she had respect for every slogan, whether it was a religious one or not. “But at the same time, I believe that religion belongs to an individual while a festival is for everybody,” she said.
Stressing that everyone should show respect to each other irrespective of their religious identity, Banerjee said, “We must respect everybody irrespective of their religion. Everyone should respect another person’s religion.”
Stooges of opposition, says Bengal BJP chief
The reaction of West Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh on Wednesday was as much along the expected lines. He described the letter writers as “anti-nationals” and alleged that they were acting as “stooges” of the opposition. “These intellectuals who have written a letter to the prime minister are anti-nationals,” Ghosh told reporters. “They are actually acting as stooges of Opposition parties who are trying to malign the BJP government.”
The Lok Sabha MP said these people would face protest by Bharatiya Janata Party cadres wherever they go. He also accused them of turning a blind eye when saffron party workers were allegedly being “killed” in West Bengal for chanting “Jai Sri Ram”.