Congress leader Shashi Tharoor has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi urging him to take a public stand welcoming dissent and assure the country of his commitment to upholding freedom of expression.
Shashi Tharoor wrote to Modi protesting the case filed against 49 eminent people for their open letter to the Prime Minister expressing concern over what they called growing incidents of mob lynching in the country.
A case of sedition and breach of peace has been registered against historian Ramchandra Guha, filmmakers Adoor Gopalakrishnan and Anurag Kashyap among others for their July 23 letter at a police station in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur.
Shashi Tharoor wrote on Monday that these people did the “right thing” in bringing the matter to his notice.
“As the citizens of India we hope that every one of us fearlessly bring to your notice issues of national importance, so that you can take the lead to address them. We would like to believe that you too would support the right to freedom of expression so that the ‘mann ki baat’ of the well-meaning citizens of India does not turn into ‘maun ki baat’,” he said.
The Congress leader, who represents Thiruvananthapuram in the Lok Sabha, reminded the Prime Minister about his address to the joint meeting of the US Congress in 2016 where he told his audience that for his government “the Constitution is its real holy book”.
“However, some of the actions of your government have contradicted your statement? Does this mean that you have changed your opinion on these fundamental issues?” he asked.
Shashi Tharoor also reminded him of the Supreme Court’s pressure cooker comment as it upheld the citizens’ right to dissent.
“Since when has writing a letter of concern to the elected leader of the country— who is responsible for the welfare of each of its citizen irrespective of its caste, creed, gender, religion or political opinion—become a trigger for an FIR? In the Naya Bharat that you have promised the nation, are FIRs going to be filed every time a citizen is critical of the government or its policies?” he asked in the two-page letter.
“Is the Naya Bharat that you wish to create one where citizens shall not be heard and their concerns not addressed? Is the Naya Bharat that you envision one where all parties and individuals disagreeing with the ruling majority will be outlawed and treated as the enemies of the state? Is the Naya Bharat that you proclaim one where journalists are arrested for exposing failures of governance?”
Shashi Tharoor urged the Prime Minister to “assure the nation of your commitment to upholding freedom of expression even when it involves disagreement with you or your government”.
The Congress leader also asked believers of freedom of expression to write to the prime minister.
“Urging all those who believe in #FreedomOfExpression to send this or similar letters to @PMOIndia @narendramodi urging him to affirm the constitutional principle of our Article 19 rights & the value of democratic dissent — even if more FIRs follow as a result! #SaveFreeSpeech,” Shashi Tharoor tweeted.