Shyam Benegal: Voiced out a problem that needs PM's attention

Updated: Oct 05, 2019, 07:26 IST | Sonil Dedhia | Mumbai

Shyam Benegal defends his stance as FIR lodged against 50 personalities, including Anurag, Konkona, Aparna Sen, for their open letter to Modi over mob lynching.

Shyaam Bengal. Pic/Shadab Khan
Shyaam Bengal. Pic/Shadab Khan

"How are we maligning the Prime Minister by writing a letter to him," questions Shyam Benegal, shocked at the recent turn of events. On Thursday, an FIR was lodged in Muzaffarpur, Bihar, against 50 celebrities — including Anurag Kashyap, Aparna Sen, Konkona Sensharma, Mani Ratnam and Benegal — for having written an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in June, expressing their concern over the rampant incidents of mob lynching. The case was lodged after an order was passed by Chief Judicial Magistrate Surya Kant Tiwari on a petition filed by Bihar advocate Sudhir Kumar Ojha. In his petition, Ojha stated that the letter "tarnished the image of the country and undermined the performance of the prime minister" besides "supporting secessionist tendencies".

Konkona Sen Sharma
Konkona Sen Sharma

Benegal is appalled that their attempt at a dialogue with the prime minister has been coloured by negativity. "The PM is the foremost public figure of our country, and we never made any personal comment. We live in a democracy, and freedom of speech is a constitutional right. We voiced out [a problem] that we thought needed the prime minister's attention."

Anurag Kashyap
Anurag Kashyap

When mid-day reached out to Sen, she termed the FIR — that was lodged under sections of the Indian Penal Code, including those relating to sedition, hurting religious feelings and insulting with an intent to provoke breach of peace — as "blatantly ridiculous". "Our letter had nothing that can be misconstrued as anti-national, seditious or one that maligns anyone. It was a politely written letter, appealing to the prime minister to stop lynchings because we thought that minorities, including Hindu Dalits, need to be protected. We are within our rights to say this to our elected prime minister."

Aparna Sen
Aparna Sen

The letter appealed that the lynching of "Muslims, Dalits and other minorities must be stopped immediately." It emphasised the need for strong action from Modi. "You have criticised lynchings in parliament, but that is not enough. We feel that such offences should be declared non-bailable," it read. 

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