New Delhi: Congress MP Shashi Tharoor appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi declaring himself "deeply disturbed" by the FIR filed against the authors of an open letter to the PM in July.Tharoor urged the PM to "affirm the constitutional principle of Article 19" and guarantee freedom of speech and expression. In a two-page letter he posted on social media, he also reminded PM Modi of a powerful speech made before the US Congress in 2016, in which Modi called the Constitution a "holy book" and said "... freedom of faith, speech... and equality of all citizens, regardless of background, are enshrined as fundamental rights".
"As citizens of India we hope that every one of us can fearlessly bring to your notice issues of national importance, so that you can take the lead to address them. We would like to believe that you too would support the right to freedom of expression, so 'mann ki baat'... does not become 'maun ki baat'," Shashi Tharoor wrote. Earlier this year 49 intellectuals, artists and celebrities, including Ramachandra Guha, Aparna Sen and Mani Ratnam, wrote to Prime Minister Modi to express concern over growing incidents of mob killing and the alleged weaponisation of the "Jai Shri Ram" slogan that made headlines in Bengal during national elections this year. The letter stressed there was no "democracy without dissent", a point Tharoor mentioned in his letter to the PM. The filing of the FIR against the authors of the letter had also been criticised by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, who said, "We are moving into an authoritarian state".According to Bihar Police, the FIR has been lodged under several sections of the Indian Penal Code, including one relating to sedition, a charge that left Kerala filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishanan, one of the letter's signatories, in 'total disbelief".