A group of 114 veterans of the Indian Armed Forces have written an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, condemning the targeting of Muslims and Dalits in the country and a “clampdown” on freedom of speech.
“It saddens us to write this letter, but current events in India have compelled us to register our dismay at the divisiveness that is gripping our country. We stand with the ‘Not in My Name’ campaign that mobilised thousands of citizens across the country to protest against the current climate of fear, intimidation, hate and suspicion,” read the letter.
“What is happening in our country today strikes at all that the Armed Forces, and indeed our Constitution, stand for. We are witness to unprecedented attacks on society at large by the relentless vigilantism of self-appointed protectors of Hinduism. We condemn the targeting of Muslims and Dalits. We condemn the clampdowns on free speech by attacks on media outlets, civil society groups, universities, journalists and scholars, through a campaign of branding them anti-national and unleashing violence against them while the State looks away,” the letter added.
The veterans went on to say they can “no longer look away. We would be doing a disservice to our country if we do not stand up and speak for the liberal and secular values that our Constitution espouses. Our diversity is our greatest strength. Dissent is not treason; in fact, it is the essence of democracy”.
“We urge the powers that be at the Centre and in the States to take note of our concerns and urgently act to uphold our Constitution, both in letter and in spirit,” the letter concluded.
The letter comes a month after thousands hit the streets across the nation protesting a spike in incidents of mob violence. The campaign called 'Not In My Name' was sparked by the killing of a 16-year-old Muslim boy was killed by a mob on a train near Delhi who accused him of being a 'beef-eater'.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also condemned the killings, saying, "Killing people in the name of Gau Bhakti (reverence of cows) is not acceptable."