Three days after a group of eminent citizens wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the lynching of minorities and hate crimes, 61 high profile personalities from various fields on Friday responded with a counter statement against "selective outrage and false narratives".
The July 23 letter by 49 "self-styled guardians and conscience keepers" expressed selective concerns and demonstrated a "clear political bias and motive", said the statement signed by actor Kangana Ranaut, lyricist Prasoon Joshi, dancer Sonal Mansingh and filmmakers Madhur Bhandarkar and Vivek Agnihotri and others.
"It (the July 23 letter) is aimed at tarnishing India's international standing and to negatively portray the prime minister's untiring efforts to effectuate governance on the foundations of positive nationalism and humanism which is the core of Indianess," the statement read.
The document of selective outrage, it said, comes across as an "attempt to foist a false narrative with the intention of denigrating the democratic ethos and norms of our collective functioning as a nation and people".
On July 23, 49 personalities, including filmmakers Mani Ratnam, Anurag Kashyap, Shyam Benegal and Aparna Sen as well as vocalist Shubha Mudgal and historian Ramchandra Guha, expressed concern at the number of "religious identity-based hate crimes" and noted that Jai Shri Ram' has become a provocative war cry with many lynchings taking place in its name.
In their statement on Friday, 61 signatories questioned the silence of the letter writers on their silence "when tribals and the marginalised have become victims of Naxal terror".
"They have kept silent when separatists have issued dictates to burn schools in Kashmir, they have kept silent when the demand for dismembering India, for making pieces of her -Tukde Tukde – were made, they kept silent when slogans chanted by terrorists and terror groups were echoed in some leading university campuses in the country," the statement said.
The civil society leaders had noted in the open letter to the prime minister that criticising the lynchings in Parliament is not enough.
"What action has actually been taken against the perpetrators? We strongly feel that such offences should be declared non-bailable, and that exemplary punishment should be meted out swiftly and surely," they said.
The response, also signed by actor Pallavi Joshi, singer Malini Awasthi, film producer Saikat Mukherjee and former vice chancellor Netaji Subhas Open University, Radharaman Chakraborty, emphasised that the PM has spoken out repeatedly against lynching.
"Prime Minister has spoken out against it repeatedly and respective state governments are empowered to take action. We would urge everyone to give up being selective and condemn lynching, discrimination and desecration of religious places with equal vehemence when they occur.
"Instead of indulging in grand-standing, personalities with a social and public profile ought to generate greater awareness on the need to tackle and eliminate the mind-set that leads to lynching," the statement added.
Terming the open letter to the PM agenda driven, the signatories said the selective outrage "makes us believe that they are working to a certain agenda and are only playing into the hands of those forces that out Balkanise India".
Targeting those that supported the July 23 letter, the statement said they had been quiet on issues like killing of people for chanting 'Jai Shri Ram', the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from Kashmir Valley and Hindus from Kairana in Uttar Pradesh and not standing beside women who are fighting the practise of triple talaq.
Those who have signed Friday's statement also include academics such as Debashish Bhattacharya from Visva Bharati in Santiniketan, Avadh University Vice Chancellor Manoj Dikshit, Anirban Ganguly of the Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation as well as MP and journalist Swapan Dasgupta and yesteryear actor Biswajit Chatterjee.