Prominent writers and artists from Gujarat and Maharashtra have written to President Pranab Mukherjee expressing their concern about the “growing culture of murderous intolerance and the brazen assault on the fundamental right to life of those who maintain the core values of diversity, plurality and tolerance”, and urging his intervention in the matter.
Ten writers and artists from Gujarat and seven from Maharashtra, including prominent names such as Guajrati Poet Mehul Devkala, Kanji Patel, filmmakers Sanjay Chhel and Paresh Nayak, renowned painter Atul Dodiya, actress and activist Nandita Das, and Marathi poets Hemant Divate and Sachin Ketkar, stated in the letter that the recent incidents such as the Dadri lynching of Muhammad Akhlaq and the murder of rationalists and free thinkers Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and MM Kalburgi has made them “strangers in their own country.”
In the letter that reflected the widespread concern of India’s creative minds, the signatories stated: “We are horrified at the callous lack of support and apathy of the state in finding and bringing the culprits to justice. The stifling atmosphere of fear and uncertainty is fatal to the freedom of expression that is at the heart of our shared lives, and it is for the restoration of this common fabric that we urge you to intervene.
“On behalf of the freethinking, creative minds of India – indeed, on behalf of every citizen of India – we urge you, the guardian of the Constitution of India, to ensure that those who have infringed upon this founding document of the State with impunity, whether overtly or by silent complicity, be brought to justice,” they wrote.
“Throttling the right to free thought and expression threatens the very existence of our plural society. We demand your active intervention in protecting the basic freedom which is the right of all Indian citizens without discrimination by religion, caste, class or gender. We appeal to you to take firm and immediate steps to combat this well-planned conspiracy to endanger Indian democracy,” they further said.
Among the writers and artists from Gujarat who are signastories to the lettter are Mehul Devkala, Kanji Patel, Paresh Nayak, Kirit Doodhat, Yagnesh Dave, Vibha Nayak, Dakshin Chhara, Sachin Ketkar, Rajan Barrett and Sagar Shah. Atul Dodiya, Nandita Das, Sanjay Chhel, Prabodh Parikh, Hemant Divate, Ganesh Visputay, Ignatius Dias are signatories from Maharashtra.
The letter comes in the backdrop of a number of prominent writers returning their Sahitya Academi awards to protest the assault on “India’s culture of diversity” and “right to dissent.” So far, nearly 25 writers, including literary giants Nayantara Sahgal and Ashok Vajpayi, have returned their awards, protesting the murder and Sahitya Academi’s silence over the murder of Kannada Sahitya Academi winning writer MM Kalburgi. EoM.