Telling Prime Minister Narendra Modi that criticism in Parliament alone is "not enough", 49 artistes, academicians and intellectuals have shot off a letter to him saying 'Jai Shri Ram' has "regrettably" become a "provocative war-cry" leading to lynchings in many parts of the country.
Urging Modi to put a stop to the "name of Ram being defiled" in this manner, they said criticising the ruling party does not imply criticising the nation and reminded that no ruling party is "synonymous with the country".
The letter, signed by filmmakers Shyam Benegal, Aparna Sen and Adoor Gopalakrishnan, vocalist Shubha Mudgal, historian Ramchandra Guha, and sociologist Ashis Nandy among others, said they were deeply concerned about a number of tragic events that have been happening in the recent times in "our beloved country".
Also signed by filmmaker-actor Revathy, social activist Binayak Sen, historians Partha Chatterjee and Sumit Sarkar and film-makers Gautam Ghose, Mani Ratnam and Revathy, the letter said, though Modi has criticised lynchings in Parliament, the question is what action has actually been taken against the perpetrators.
They demanded that such offences should be declared non-bailable and that exemplary punishment should be meted out "swiftly and surely".
"No citizen should have to live in fear in his/her own country! Regrettably "Jai Shri Ram" has become a provocative 'war cry' today that leads to law and order problems, and many lynchings take place in its name. It is shocking that so much violence be perpetrated in the name of religion," the letter said.
"This is not the Middle Ages! The name of Ram is sacred to many in the majority community of India," it said.
The letter to Modi also said people should not be branded anti-national or urban Naxal and incarcerated because of dissent against the government.
Responding to the letter, Union Minorities Minister Mukthar Abbas Naqvi was quoted by PTI as saying, "no one should communalise criminal incidents. Dalits and minorities are safe in this country. Those who are yet to recover from the defeat of 2019 Lok Sabha polls are trying to do it."
"We have seen the same thing after 2014 (elections) in the name of 'award wapsi', this is just part two of that," the minister said, referring to the protest by writers against the government's alleged silence on violence and rising intolerance.