An FIR has been filed against the 49 celebrities who wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in July 2019, expressing concern over the rising incidence of communal violence in the country. According to PTI, the FIR has been filed under various sections of the Indian Penal Code including sedition, public nuisance, hurting religious feelings and insulting with an intent to provoke breach of peace.
An inspector at Sadar police station in Muzzafarpur, Bihar, confirmed to TNM that the FIR has been filed on Wednesday. This happened after an order to the effect was passed on August 20 by Chief Judicial Magistrate Surya Kant Tiwari in regard to a petition by the advocate Sudhir Ojha.
Advocate Sudhir told PTI that the artists who had signed the open letter were all named as accused in the petition because they allegedly "tarnished the image of the country and undermined the impressive performance of the Prime Minister" besides "supporting secessionist tendencies".
The letter, which had signatories including Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Mani Ratnam, Anurag Kashyap, Aparna Sen, actor and filmmaker Revathy Asha, historian and writer Ramchandra Guha, filmmaker and actor Konkona Sensharma, actor Kani Kusruti, noted concerns over increasing identity-based hate crimes and lynchings of Muslims, Dalits and other minorities in India.
The letter had stated that “Jai Shri Ram” had become a provocative war cry, and had appealed to Prime Minister Modi to stop the use of Ram in this manner.
The letter also questioned the action taken by the PM against the perpetrators of such hate crimes. “You have criticised such lynchings in Parliament Mr Prime Minister, but that is not enough! What action has actually been taken against the perpetrators?”
In response to this, 62 personalities from film, academia and other fields wrote a counter letter, which stated that the 49 signatories of the previous letter showed "selective concern and demonstrated a clear political bias and motive” and was an “attempt to foist a FALSE NARRATIVE”. Among these 62 celebrities were actor Kangana Ranaut, lyricist Prasoon Joshi, filmmakers Madhur Bhandarkar and Vivek Agnihotri.
Incidentally, while the present FIR alleges that the signatories were seditious and undermined the PM’s “impressive performance”, the signatories had stated in the letter that anti-government stand cannot be construed as an anti-national stand.
“Criticising the ruling party does not imply criticising the nation. An open environment where dissent is not crushed only makes for a stronger nation,” the letter had stated.