Congress MPs Shashi Tharoor and Rajeev Gowda have shot off a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressing "strong protest" over the registering of an FIR against 49 eminent citizens who had raised concerns about the rising mob lynching cases.
In the letter, Tharoor, the Congress Lok Sabha MP from Thiruvananthapuram and Rajeev Gowda, Rajya Sabha MP from Karnataka, also said those criticising the prime minister should not be considered "anti-nationals".
The MPs urged Modi to take a public stand welcoming dissent and assure the nation of his "commitment to upholding Freedom of Expression even when it involves disagreement with you or your government".
India's history as an independent nation would have been a different one if those who dissented under the British Raj had not shown the courage to do so, they said.
"We are deeply disturbed by the FIR filed in Muzaffarpur, Bihar against a group of 49 concerned Indian citizens, who wrote a letter to you, on 23 July, 2019, highlighting the rise of mob lynchings in the country... We would like to register our strong protest against the FIR," the two MPs added.
The letter further said, "Mob lynching, whether triggered by communal hatred or triggered by rumours of child kidnapping, has become a disease that is spreading rapidly, and these citizens did the right thing in bringing it to your notice."
Pointing out that there was no democracy without dissent, Tharoor and Gowda said India had been built on the "bedrock of co-existence of diverse and often diverging views and ideologies. That is what makes India a successful and vibrant democracy".
"As citizens of India, we hope that every one of us can fearlessly bring to your notice, issues of national importance so that you can take the lead to address them. We would like to believe that you too would support the right to Freedom of Expression so that the 'mann ki baat' of the well-meaning citizens of India does not turn into a 'maun ki baat," he said.
An FIR was filed at Muzaffarpur in Bihar on 3 October against 50 celebrities, including Ramchandra Guha, Mani Ratnam, Adoor Gopalakrishnan and Aparna Sen, who had written an open letter to the prime minister, raising their concern over growing incidents of mob lynching.
"Those who criticise or have opposing views to yours should not be deemed enemies or anti-national. Without criticism, there can be no improvement. If we are all blind to the problems that exist and impact Indian citizens, we risk becoming an authoritarian regime, contrary to the values enshrined in our Constitution," the letter said.
The Congress MPs also wanted to know since when did writing a letter to the elected leader of the country become the trigger for an FIR.
Urging all those who believe in #FreedomOfExpression to send this or similar letters to @PMOIndia @narendramodi urging him to affirm the constitutional principle of our Article 19 rights & the value of democratic dissent — even if more FIRs follow as a result! #SaveFreeSpeech pic.twitter.com/MDIrros64j
— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) October 8, 2019
"In the Naya Bharat that you have promised the nation, are FIRs going to be filed every time a citizen is critical of the government or its policies? Is this Naya Bharat that you wish to create, one where citizens shall not be heard and their concerns not addressed? Is this Naya Bharat that you envisioned one where all parties and individuals disagreeing with the ruling majority will be outlawed and treated as enemies of the state?"
The letter also asked whether this was the "Naya Bharat where journalists are arrested for exposing failures of governance".
The FIR was lodged after a chief judicial magistrate passed an order on a petition filed against the celebrities before his court.
The petition had claimed that the celebrities allegedly "tarnished the image of the country and undermined the impressive performance of the prime minister" besides
"supporting secessionist tendencies".
Ace film director Adoor Gopalakrishnan had on Friday expressed concern over the FIR, saying it was undemocratic and will create doubts about the law and order system in the country.
With inputs from PTI
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Updated Date: Oct 08, 2019 18:46:31 IST