A case was registered recently, on the directions of the Court, against 49 ’eminent personalities’ who had written an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi calling Jai Shri Ram a ‘provocative warcry’ and registering a protest against the ‘increased atrocities’ against Muslims and Dalits in India. The complaint was filed by an advocate.
Following the registration of the case, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor had written an open letter to Prime Minister Modi asking him to condemn the filing of the FIR against the ’eminent personalities’ on the direction of the Court, in the name of protection of ‘dissent’. Now, it appears more than 180 ’eminent personalities’ have come out and endorsed the original letter to the Prime Minister and condemned the charges it attracted.
The statement reads, “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.”
Interestingly enough, one person who is greatly concerned about the ‘misuse of courts’ to silence ‘voices’ is Anand Teltumbde, an alleged Urban Naxal accused in the Elgar Parishad case. He was arrested in the matter in February but was later released on a technicality. The Supreme Court, in the past, has refused to quash the FIR against him despite several requests.
Anand Teltumbde’s brother, Milind Teltumbde, was named in the FIR regarding the blast at Gadricholi that led to the death of 15 police personnel. Milind Teltumbde who handles the operations of the CPI(M) is also accused in the Bhima Koregaon case.
Amusingly enough, the controversial letter which attracted a case against the signatories in the first place boasted among its signatories a convicted Naxalite. Binayak Sen was convicted in 2010 on charges of sedition for his links to Naxals and sentenced to life imprisonment under sections 124A and 120(B) of the IPC. He was also found guilty under section 8(1) of the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act. He was given bail by the Supreme Court in 2011. It is rather ironic that a man convicted of sedition for helping Naxalites was taking the moral high ground in the letter that referred to the signatories as “peace-loving and proud Indians”.
Thus, we have ’eminent personalities’ like Naseeruddin Shah, dancer Mallika Sarabhai, authors Ashok Vajpeyi, Nayantara Sahgal and Shashi Deshpande, historian Romila Thapar, singer T.M. Krishna, and artist Vivan Sundaram collaborating with an alleged Urban Naxal to condemn an open letter to the Prime Minister that had among its signatories a convicted Naxalite. One would have expected ’eminent personalities’ to be more careful about the company they kept but apparently, support from every quarter is justified as long as it’s in opposition to Narendra Modi.