A group of 75 people including eminent personalities have written an open letter to Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai, expressing concern about ”recent developments” that threaten to destroy peace and diversity in Karnataka.
They requested Bommai to take proactive steps to ensure that a clear message is sent to those instigating or indulging in violence and creating fear and that such unlawful behaviour will not be tolerated and will be punished.
The group, calling themselves ‘concerned citizens’, pressed for restoring the State to a ‘Sarva janangada shantiya thota’ (a garden of peace for diverse communities), as mentioned in ‘Naada Geethe’ (state anthem) penned by Kuvempu.
They said the ”current spate of divisive actions aimed at alienating particular communities and denying them their fundamental rights” will not only hamper development but also hurt our state’s reputation, hinder progress and innovation, erode the confidence of entrepreneurs and investors, heighten insecurity, suspicion, fear and resentment among citizens. The restoration of communal harmony is an important and urgent task, they said, expressing trust that the government headed by Bommai will not wish to go down in history as the one that precipitated a ”steep downturn” in the reputation and fortunes of our state through inaction.
The signatories include retired civil servants, writers, artists and academics like Yellappa Reddy, Indian Forest Service (retd), Ravivarma Kumar (former Advocate General, Karnataka), Chiranjiv Singh, IAS (retd), Ajai Kumar Singh IPS (retd), Raghunandan IAS (retd), Shashi Deshpande (writer), Vaidehi (writer), Girish Kasaravalli (film maker) and Ramchandra Guha (historian).
The group has claimed that they have been trying to secure an appointment with the CM and wished to present this letter to him in person, but since they have not succeeded in their efforts, they have decided to issue it as an open letter.
They stated that they are deeply disturbed by recent developments in the State that threaten to destroy the peace, diversity and pluralism for which ”Kannada Naadu” has long been known and admired.
They highlighted the open-minded, cosmopolitan culture of Karnataka that has made it a magnet for creative and innovative minds from across the country in more recent times.
They said, given this glorious background, the recent ”spate of attacks of various kinds aimed at Muslim, Christian and Dalit communities” has shocked and upset those who pride themselves on Karnataka’s receptive and inclusive nature.
”It is bad enough that individuals and groups motivated by bigotry and hatred are attempting to reconfigure the idea and established reality of Karnataka by aggressively seeking to exclude, isolate, dispossess and assault communities on the basis of religion and caste,” they added. The signatories further highlighted that it is even more alarming and distressing that some people in responsible positions, including several who hold office having taken an oath to uphold and abide by the letter and spirit of the Constitution of India, now openly violate that solemn pledge and demonise members of certain minorities.
They also appear to validate, support and even promote intimidation, vigilantism, violence, forcible takeover of property, as well as social and economic boycotts, all aimed at rendering them second class citizens who can no longer expect to enjoy their Constitutional rights, the letter alleged.
Noting that the current spate of decisive actions aimed at alienating particular communities and denying them their fundamental rights is also threatening the integrity of our nation, it said it is not possible to ”Make in India” in a climate where people are ”Scared in India” and even ”Scarred in India.” Pointing at government advertisements in the press on Basava Jayanthi 2022 (3 May), about building an equitable and harmonious society as envisaged by Basavanna, the letter further said, it would have been even more heartening if the government had also acknowledged Ramzan/ Idu’l Fitr, celebrated on the same day, and used the occasion to reach out to Muslim citizens, reassuring them about their safety and security, especially at a time when they have been under persistent attack.
The signatories, urged CM to direct the state’s police force to do its Constitutional duty to uphold the law, safeguard vulnerable citizens and guarantee that victims of crimes, including communal and casteist hate crimes, have full access to justice; take appropriate action against the local authorities responsible for maintaining peace and harmony in case of communal violence; take prompt and strong action against hate speech.