India: 49 booked for writing letter to Modi on lynching


A case has been registered in India’s eastern state of Bihar against 49 Indian celebrities, who had written an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi over incidents of mob lynching in the country.

The first information report (FIR) was lodged after an order was passed by Chief Judicial Magistrate Surya Kant Tiwari on Aug. 20 on a petition filed by local advocate Sudhir Kumar Ojha. The case was registered at Muzaffarpur’s Sadar police station on Thursday.

“These people were responsible for tarnishing the image of our country. They cannot behave this way with the prime minister of our country,” Ojha told Anadolu Agency on Friday.

According to Press Trust of India news agency, the case was registered against 49 signatories of the letter in which the petition said they “tarnished the image of the country and undermined the impress performance of the prime minister” besides “supporting secessionist tendencies”.

The police said the FIR was lodged under sections of the Indian Penal Code — including those relating to sedition, public nuisance, hurting religious feelings and insulting with an intent to provoke breach of peace, according to the report.

The celebrities in July had highlighted that ‘Jai Shri Ram’ (hail Lord Rama) has become a “provocative war-cry” in the present day that leads to law and order problems, and “many lynchings take place in its name”.

“The lynching of Muslims, Dalits [the lowest cast in India] and other minorities must be stopped immediately. We were shocked to learn from the National Crime Records Bureau reports that there have been no less than 840 instances of atrocities against Dalits [lower Hindu caste] in the year 2016, and a definite decline in the percentage of convictions,” the letter had said.

As many as 49 celebrities — including singer Shubha Mudgal, actor Konkona Sen Sharma and filmmakers Shyam Benegal, Anurag Kashyap and Mani Ratnam — had signed the letter.

“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 (Hindu God) 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,” they had said in the letter.
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