New Delhi: In an open letter addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi a group of retired IAS and IPS officers condemned the recent incidents of attacks and mob lynching of Muslims in the name of cow protection.
Some sixtyfive retired bureaucrats who have signed the letter invoked Modi's infamous "Shamsan vs Qabristan" remark made during the Uttar Pradesh state elections as one of the reasons behind the growing climate of religious intolerance that is aimed primarily at Muslims.
"In Uttar Pradesh, in the run-up to the elections, an odious and frankly communal comparison was made between the relative number of burial grounds and cremation grounds. The question was also asked as to whether electricity was being supplied equally to different communities during their religious festivals. All this without any basis in fact or evidence", they said in the letter dated June 24.
"The banning of slaughter-houses targets the minorities and affects their livelihoods as well. Such intolerance breeds violence in a communally charged atmosphere-even to the extent of a local leader in UP provoking an attack upon the residence of a Superintendent of Police, whose family was terrorised", they added.
"Vigilantism has become widespread. An Akhlaq is killed on the basis of a suspicion that the meat he has is beef and a Pehlu Khan is lynched while transporting to his place two cows he had bought and for which he had the necessary papers. Nomadic shepherds are attacked in Jammu and Kashmir on some suspicion as they practice their age-old occu-pation of moving from one place to another along with their cattle and belongings", they said.
"Punitive action against the perpetrators of violence does not take place promptly but cruelly, the victims have FIRs registered against them. The behaviour of vigilantes-who act as if they are prosecutor, judge and executioner rolled into one-flies in the face of law and juris-prudence. These actions undermine the rule of law and the Indian Constitution since only the state-through its various organs and insti-tutions-has the power to enforce the law", they said.
"Vigilantism has become popular as 'anti-Romeo' squads threaten young couples who go out together, hold hands and are perhaps in love with each other. A thinly-veiled effort to prevent a Hindu-Muslim relationship or marriage, there is no justification in law to harass these couples, particularly when there is no complaint from the woman of being ill-treated", they said.
Making it clear that they have no affiliation with any political party but believe in the credo of impartiality, neutrality and commitment to the Indian constitution, the former bureaucrats also expressed concern over growing intolerance in university campuses across the country.
"Student groups and faculty members on campuses like Hyderabad and JNU, who raise troubling questions about equality, social justice and freedom, are subject to attack by the administration, with a supportive government to back them.
"In Jodhpur, a planned lecture by a renowned academic was cancelled under pressure and the faculty that organised the event subjected to disciplinary action. What happened in Jodhpur has happened at other institutions as well.
"Argumentation and discussion about different perspectives-the life-blood not only of institutions of learning but of democracy itself-are being throttled. Disagree-ment and dissent are considered seditious and anti-national. Such attitudes have a chilling impact on free speech and thought", they said.