Indian Celebrities Protest Attacks on Minorities and Intolerance of Dissent

Indian protesters shout slogans as they hold placards and candles during a protest condemning recent mob lynching of Muslim youth Tabrez Ansari in Jharkhand state, in New Delhi, India, Wednesday, June 26, 2019. Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took the helm of the Indian government, Hindu mobs have lynched dozens of people, mainly Muslims and lower-caste Dalits. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

Dozens of Indian celebrities have asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to intervene and stop rising incidents of attacks on minorities, misuse of religion by Hindu hard-liners and intolerance against dissent in the country.In a joint letter of protest to Modi released on Wednesday, the celebrities said critics of his government are being branded anti-national and punished with imprisonment.

The protest comes less than two months after a massive victory by Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, in national elections, suggesting that his supporters are feeling emboldened by the defeat of opposition parties.

The 49 signatories included Adoor Gopalakrishnan, a filmmaker; Amit Chaudhary, an author; Anuradha Kapoor, a social activist; Ashis Nandy, a socialist; and Jaya Mitra, an environmentalist.

They said criticizing the ruling party did not imply criticizing the nation. “Hence anti-government stands cannot be equated with anti-national sentiments,” they said.

There was no immediate government reaction to the celebrities’ protest.

Since Modi came to power in 2014, Hindu mobs have lynched dozens of people — mainly Muslims and lower-caste Dalits — suspected of illegally transporting cows or consuming beef. Many Indian states have laws limiting or banning the slaughter of cows, which are sacred to Hindus. Some BJP leaders have come to the alleged killers’ defense, garlanding them with marigolds.

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Source: Religion News Service