Civil society activists flay PMO's "silence" on attacks on dissent

Civil society activists flay PMO's "silence" on attacks on dissent
New Delhi, June 7: Prominent citizens and civil society activists today questioned the "silence" of the Prime Minister's office on recent "blatant" attacks on free speech of writers and academicians and demanded that these constitututional rights be protected.

The citizens in a joint statement said that in the last fortnight there had been a "resurgence" of attacks to curb the right to free speech and expression of those who did not "share the euphoria, hope and enthusiasm associated with recent election results".

The statement said the brutal lynching of an innocent young professional in Pune, following the arson and rioting in reaction to a Facebook post, is evidence of a "continuing atmosphere of intolerance and fear that threatens our democracy and must be stopped immediately". It said such attempts to curtail the right to free speech and expression have been recurring over the past two decades, irrespective of the political party in power.

Giving examples of such incidents, the statement said that last month, Kannada writer, U.R. Ananthamurthy was sent a one-way ticket to Karachi as well as threatened with phones calls for saying 'I would not like to live in a country ruled by Modi'.

The statement said a youth, Syed Vaqas, along with four friends from Bhatkal, Karnataka were arrested for sending a message (when the election results were announced) caricaturing the BJP government’s election slogan 'aabki bar antimsanskar (modisarkar).' The signatories to the statement include Aruna Roy, Romila Thapar, Baba Adhav, Vivan Sundaram, Mrinal Pande, Jean Dreze, Jayati Ghosh, Anand Pathwardhan and Mallika Sarabhai.

The citizens also lodged their protest against the "continuing intolerant legislative attempts at criminalizing dissenting opinion" and those who take law into their hands to disrupt peaceful discussions and dialogue and said they opposed the use of the "draconic" Section 66A of the IT Act against them.

"In the two recent cases in Karnataka and Goa, the representatives of police in Goa and Bangalore have stated in the newspapers that these cases do not warrant arrests. But the PMO has remained silent on this blatant attack on curbing citizens’ free speech and expression," the press statement signed by more than 200 citizens said. 


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