Sedition case against Guha, 48 others

(From Left to Right) Ramachandra Guha, Aparna Sen and Mani Ratnam

An FIR has been lodged in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur district against veteran filmmakers Shyam Benegal, Aparna Sen and Mani Ratnam, historian Ramachandra Guha and 45 others for “tarnishing the image of the country, undermining the impressive leadership of the prime minister and supporting secessionists”.

The celebrities had written an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressing concern over the growing incidents of mob-lynching, mostly in BJP-ruled states. Saying that the slogan of ‘Jai Shri Ram’ had become more of a “provocative war cry”, the 49 signatories had written that “there was no democracy without dissent”.

“Pained” over the open letter to Modi, Muzaffarpur-based lawyer Sudhir Ojha filed a case against them in the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) Surya Kant Tripathi in August. “After the CJM passed an order, an FIR was lodged against the 49 at Muzaffarpur Sadar police station on Thursday,” said Ojha, who had earlier this year dragged Navjot Singh Sidhu to the CJM court on sedition charges.

The Muzaffarpur police confirmed that the celebrities have been charged with “sedition, public nuisance, hurting religious feelings and insulting with an intent to provoke breach of peace”.    

Vocalist Shubha Mudgal, actor Konkana Sen and filmmakers Adoor Gopalakrishnan and Anurag Kashyap are among those booked.

In the letter, the signatories had also said that an anti-government stand should not be construed as an anti-national stand. “Criticising the ruling party does not imply criticising the nation,” they said.

Reacting to the FIR, Adoor Gopalakrishnan said it was the belief that democracy exists in the country that prompted them to write to the prime minister, DHNS adds from Thiruvananthapuram.

“Those who wrote the letter were not politicians. We expected that the government would look into the issues raised in the letter and take some corrective measures. But the present developments are a serious cause for concern. It raises apprehensions over the legal system,” he said.

Adoor had faced the wrath of BJP leaders in Kerala for signing the letter. BJP state spokesperson B Gopalakrishnan had suggested that the filmmaker move to some other “planet” if he could not tolerate ‘Jai Shri Ram’.

Meanwhile, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi alleged that anyone who criticises Narendra Modi or his government were being sent to jail. Talking to reporters in Wayanad, Rahul said the country was fast becoming an authoritarian state.

“Anybody who says anything against the prime minister or raises any issue against the government are being put in jail. The media is being crushed. It is pretty clear that we are moving towards an authoritarian state. It is no more a secret,” he said.

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