“About 90% of those attacks were reported after May 2014 when your government assumed power nationally,” the signatories wrote.


Intellectuals, artists, and other prominent personalities wrote an open letter to the Indian right-wing Prime Minister Narendra Modi Tuesday expressing their concern over continuous lynching of Muslims, Dalits and other minorities by the Hindu majority in the country.


“Dear Prime Minister … the lynching of Muslims, Dalits and other minorities must be stopped immediately,” reads the letter.


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


“We were shocked to learn from the NCRB (National Crime Records Bureau) 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,” it continued. Dalits are the lowest caste in India. Historically they were considered untouchables by the upper caste Hindus.


They also pointed out that “254 religious identity-based hate crimes were reported between January 1, 2009, and October 29, 2018” and Muslims who constitute 14 percent of the Indian population were victims of 62 percent of cases while Christians were victims in 14 percent of reported cases.


“About 90 percent of those attacks were reported after May 2014 when your government assumed power nationally,” said the letter.


“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, one of the signatories told media after the letter was published.


They also condemned the usage of Hindu religious chant “Jai Shri Ram,” which hails Lord Ram, a Hindu god, as a “provocative war cry.”


In recent lynching cases, many Muslims were forced to chant “Jai Shri Ram” before being murdered by Hindu mobs.


The signatories also pointed out that “there is no democracy without dissent” and criticized the branding of critical people as “anti-national or urban Naxal and incarcerated because of dissent against the government.”


Urban Naxal is a term used by pro-right Modi supporters to vilify dissenters. The term comes from an active guerilla movement by a part of Indian left. The term Naxal stems from the mid-1960s to early 1970s guerilla Naxalbari movement in the eastern state of West Bengal against Indian land-owning classes.


The movement later spread to the forests of central India, known as the “red corridor,” where guerillas are waging a war against the Indian state. It was considered India’s biggest internal threat.


Anyone, in present India, questions Modi and his right-wing party Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), gets branded as “urban Naxal.”


“Criticizing the ruling party does not imply criticizing 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 …,” the letter said.


BJP leader Subramanian Swamy rejected the claims of the signatories saying that there is no intolerance in the country.


“They still have the right to write to the prime minister. There is no intolerance. This is ridiculous. What intolerance are they are talking about? Has any of them been put in jail? Has any of them been prosecuted for something they didn’t do? I understand this has become a fashion now to catch international attention. There is some sinister motive behind this. If I was the prime minister, I would throw this in a wastebasket without even reading it,” he said during an interview in a local channel.

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