New Delhi: Twenty-eight senior journalists and media persons, in a collective statement, urged constitutional institutions “to step in and uphold their mandate” in the wake of “open calls from various quarters for attacks on India’s religious minorities, especially Muslims”.
The statement, titled ‘In the face of orchestrated hatred, silence is not an option’, noted that “concerted amplification of hatred” as well as the “attendant advocacy of violence” have been growing over the past few years.
Among the signatories are former editor-in-chief of The Hindu N. Ram, Founder Editor of The Wire Siddharth Varadarajan, Caravan’s Executive Editor Vinod Jose and The News Minute’s Editor-in-Chief Dhanya Rajendran.
“Sometimes, the occasion is an election, at other times it is a political gathering, a so-called ‘dharam sansad’, or a controversy over clothing, or even the screening of a movie,” stated the appeal, adding that “these calls for violence — which have been widely reported in the media — have been met with a cold and calculated silence from the country’s top leaders”.
Noting that they saw “systematic hate” being propagated against Muslims in the country “under the pretext of Covid-19”, the journalists also highlighted how social media platforms, including the “pernicious” Bulli Bai app, are being used to “systematically target” Muslim women.
The appeal also referred to the “ugly controversy” over the hijab in Karnataka, which has led to the “harassment and humiliation” of Muslim women in different parts of the country.
On Vivek Agnihotri’s The Kashmir Files, the statement said that the film “exploits” the tragedy and suffering of the Kashmiri Pandits “by using their plight as a pretext for the promotion of hatred against Muslims”.
“Attempts have been made from the highest levels of government to stifle fully justified criticism of the film and of the violent reaction it is generating by claiming there is a ‘conspiracy’ afoot to ‘discredit’ it,” they also noted.
The journalists slammed the police for either “taking no cognisance of those inciting anti-minority violence” or registering cases under “disproportionately mild sections”, which they said “strengthens the perception that such offenders are above the law”.
“Against this backdrop, the President of India, the Chief Justices and other Judges of the Supreme Court of India and the various High Courts, the Election Commission of India, and other constitutionally provisioned and statutory bodies are constitutionally obliged to ensure that these calls for violence do not translate into something unimaginably worse,” the statement added.
The appeal further said that sections of the media have also allowed themselves to become “conduits of hate speech”, and urged media-related bodies such as the Press Council of India, the News Broadcasters and Digital Association, working journalists and others to “respond urgently” to the crisis at hand.
“India today stands at a dangerous place, with the founding values of our secular, democratic, and republican Constitution coming under flagrant assault from prejudiced ideas, acts of prejudice, discrimination, and violent incidents, all planned and orchestrated as part of an anti-constitutional political project,” the group of journalists wrote.
Full list of signatories of the statement:
Ram, former Editor-in-Chief, The Hindu & Director, The Hindu Publishing Group
Mrinal Pande, Senior Journalist and Writer
Rajagopal, Editor, The Telegraph
Vinod Jose, Executive Editor, Caravan
Vijaya Sankar, Editor, Frontline
W. Naqvi, Chairman & MD, Satya Hindi
Ashutosh, Editorial Director, Satya Hindi
Siddharth Varadarajan, Founder Editor, The Wire
Sidharth Bhatia, Founder Editor, The Wire
M.K. Venu, Founder Editor, The Wire
Aziz Tankarvi, Publisher, Gujarat Today
Ravindra Ambekar, Director, MaxMaharashtra
R.K. Radhakrishnan, Senior Journalist
Deepal Trivedi, Founder Editor: Vibes of India, Gujarat
Hasan Kamal, Senior Journalist & Columnist, Inquilab
Teesta Setalvad, Co-Editor, Sabrangindia
Javed Anand, Co-Editor, Sabrangindia
Pradip Phanjoubam, Editor, Imphal Review of Arts and Politics
Anuradha Bhasin, Executive Editor, Kashmir Times
Kalpana Sharma, Independent Journalist
Aunindyo Chakravarty, Independent journalist
Saba Naqvi, Independent Journalist
Dhanya Rajendran, Editor in Chief, The News Minute
Shabir Ahmed, Senior News Editor, The News Minute
Anirban Roy, Editor, Northeast Now, Guwahati
Dhiren A. Sadokpam, Editor-in-Chief, The Frontier, Manipur
Tongam Rina, Journalist, Arunachal Pradesh
Monalisa Changkija, Editor, Nagaland Page