As many as 49 celebrities including social activists, filmmakers and artistes have written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressing concern on the increasing number of cases of lynching in the country.
The letter intends to draw PM Modi's attention to "a number of tragic events" recently, including the alleged weaponisation of the slogan "Jai Shri Ram" into a "war cry".
"Dear Prime Minister... The lynching of Muslims, Dalits and other minorities must be stopped immediately. We were shocked to learn from the NCRB (National Crime Records Bureau) reports that there have been no less than 840 instances of atrocities against Dalits in the year 2016, and a definite decline in the percentage of convictions," the letter says.
The letter has been signed by filmmaker Anurag Kashyap, actor Aparna Sen and historian Ramachandra Guha, among others.
The letter adds: "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…..Ram is sacred for the majority community, stop defiling the name of Ram."
"You have criticised such lynchings in parliament Mr Prime Minister, but that is not enough... We strongly feel that such offences should be declared non-bailable..." the letter further says.
The letter, dated July 23, states there is no democracy without dissent.
“People should be branded as ‘anti-nationals’ or ‘Urban-Naxals’ and incarcerated because of dissents with the government.
"Criticising the ruling party does not imply criticising the nation. No ruling party is synonymous with the country where it is in power. It is only one of the political parties of that country. Hence anti-government stands cannot be equated with anti-national sentiments. An open environment where dissent is not crushed, only makes for a stronger nation...
"We hope our suggestions will be taken in the spirit that they are meant - as Indians genuinely concerned with, and anxious about, the fate of our nation."
Others who signed the letter include filmmaker Mani Ratnam, social activist Anuradha Kapoor, social worker Aditi Basu, author Amit Chaudhury, actor Konkana Sen Sharma, actor-filmmaker Revathy, filmmaker Shyam Benegal, singer Shubha Mudgal, Rupam Islam, singer-composer Anupam Roy, actor Parambrata and actor Riddhi Sen among others.