Communal Harmony

To

The Chief Minister of Karnataka Shri Basavaraj Bommai Government of Karnataka Bengaluru

Respected Chief Minister,

Sub: Concerns about peace and harmony within Karnataka and the urgent need to restore the state to a “sarva janangada shantiya thota

We have been trying to secure an appointment with you through your office for over a month. We wished to present this letter to you in person. Since we have not succeeded in our efforts, we have decided to issue it as an open letter since we believe that it concerns matters of public importance. We consider it our duty as citizens to bring our concerns and suggestions to your attention. We hope you and the government you head will take due note of it. The letter follows:

We are a group of concerned citizens from different walks of life based in Karnataka who, like lakhs of fellow citizens, 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. We believe it is our duty to bring our concerns and suggestions to your attention for corrective action.

Karnataka has had a long-standing, proud history of communal harmony that pre-dates the formation of the state in 1956. Our history of striving for a harmonious society is exemplified by the efforts of 12th Century poet-philosopher Basaveshwara towards social and religious reform, as well as the syncretic traditions across the state that bear testimony to the peaceful co-existence here of communities, including Hindus and Muslims, over centuries. It is not for nothing that our Rashtra Kavi Kuvempu’s Naada Geethe (state anthem) described this land as “sarva janangada shantiya thota” – a garden of peace for diverse communities – nearly a century ago.

It is this 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. People from various parts of India, belonging to different communities, have flocked to Karnataka, appreciated and absorbed its rich and diverse culture, and contributed to making it one of the most vibrant and dynamic states in terms  of  science  and technology, education, healthcare, entrepreneurship, literature and the arts, social and cultural life, and much else.

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.

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.

It is clear that such elected representatives of the people have forgotten both Article 51A(e) and Article 51A(f) of the Constitution. While the first states that it is the fundamental duty of every citizen “to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India transcending religious, linguistic and regional or sectional diversities,” the second mandates every citizen “to value and preserve the rich heritage of the country’s composite culture.”

The active promotion of peace, harmony and justice is clearly essential for the state’s continued development and indeed for the pursuit of Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas. Goal Number 16 of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), designed to be a “blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all,” specifies that the first step towards fulfilling any aspect of the global sustainable development agenda is to restore security and human rights to individuals whose lives and basic freedoms are under threat – either due to direct violence or through institutional restrictions to justice.

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, and cause harm to all sections of society, while also threatening the integrity of our nation. It is not possible to “Make in India” in a climate where people are “Scared in India” and even “Scarred in India.”

On the occasion of Basava Jayanthi 2022 (3 May), it was encouraging to see prominent government advertisements in the press which stated that “Building an equitable and harmonious society as envisaged by Basavanna is our goal.” The quotation from our Prime Minister highlighted the fact that Basaveshwara emphasised “social harmony, brotherhood, unity and compassion.” 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.

Considering that the Government of Karnataka bears a Constitutional obligation  to ensure that peace, harmony and justice prevail in the state, we urge you, as the Chief Minister, to take the following actions to restore the well-being and confidence of all citizens:

  1. 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, and also that witnesses can come forward to testify, confident that they will receive  due
  2. In the event of communal conflict resulting in violence as well as loss of lives and livelihoods, take appropriate action against the local authorities responsible for maintaining peace and harmony: the district administration in general and the District Commissioner and Superintendent of Police in
  3. Take prompt and strong action against hate speech that dehumanises members of particular communities, and against the increasingly frequent, vicious calls for physical violence, as well as equally damaging social and economic boycotts.
  4. Take immediate cognisance of and stand up publicly against the misinformation and false stories about minorities that are regularly being circulated now – in the form of public utterances as well as through social and other forms of media – which aggravate the risk of citizens who belong to such communities being subjected to discrimination and violence.
  1. Urge those sections of the media that have been openly stoking the fires of division and discord by promoting intolerance, hatred and violence, and spreading fake news and false rumours, to immediately stop such They must know that unscrupulous media that violate the established principles, standards and ethics of journalism and vitiate peace and harmony in our state do not enjoy impunity.

 

These proactive steps by the Government of Karnataka will ensure that a clear message is sent to those instigating and indulging in violence, and fomenting fear and insecurity among fellow citizens, that such unlawful, unacceptable behaviour will not be tolerated and that hate crimes will be severely punished. We believe the restoration of communal harmony is an important and urgent task and trust that the government you head 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.

We look forward to seeing firm and unambiguous official action on this front in the near future.

With respectful regards, Yours sincerely,

 

  1. T. Abroo, IAS (Retd)
  2. Sharath Ananthamurthy, Professor of Physics
  3. H.S. Anupama, Writer
  4. Gita Aravamudan, Journalist/Author
  5. Anand Arni, Special Secretary (Retd), Cabinet Secretariat, GoI
  6. Srilatha Batliwala, Gender Expert & Former State Programme Director, Mahila Samakhya, Karnataka
  7. Dr Svati Bhogle, Sustainable Technology Expert
  8. Sabiha Bhumigowda, Professor of Kannada (retd.), Mangalore University
  9. Vasundhara Bhupathi, Medical Practitioner & Writer
  10. Maya Chandra, Documentary Film Maker
  11. Francis TR Colaso, IPS (Retd)
  12. Navroze Contractor, Photographer/Cinematographer
  13. R. Dasgupta, IAS (Retd)
  14. Edgar Demello, Architect
  15. Shashi Deshpande, Writer
  16. Deepa Dhanraj, Documentary Film Maker
  17. Chandan Gowda, Academic & Writer
  18. Ramachandra Guha, Historian
  19. Nagesh Hegde, Journalist
  20. S. Japhet, Former Founding Vice Chancellor, Bengaluru City University
  21. Ammu Joseph, Journalist/Author
  22. Ravi Joshi, Joint Secretary (Retd), Cabinet Secretariat, GoI
  23. Rajagopal Kadambi, Former International Basketball Player & Captain, Karnataka Team
  24. Malavika (Karanth) Kapur, Professor Clinical Psychology (retd.)
  25. Girish Kasaravalli, Film Maker
  26. Ravi Kashi, Artist
  27. Mallikarjun Katakol, Photographer
  28. Lakshmipathy Kolar, Author & Poet
  29. Professor Ravivarma Kumar, Former Advocate General of Karnataka, Former Chairperson, Karnataka Backward Classes Commission
  30. Vishu Kumar, Former Director, Department of Information, GoK
  31. Dr Sharachchandra Lele, Environmental Scientist
  32. Keshava Malagi, Writer
  33. G. Manjula, Journalist
  34. Satyajit Mayor, Professor of Biology
  35. N. Mohan, Journalist
  36. Shanthamani Muddaiah, Artist
  37. Janaki Nair, Professor of History (retd.)
  38. Prathibha Nandakumar, Author, Journalist & Poet
  39. K.G. Narayanan, Scientist & Former Chief Advisor, DRDO
  40. Revathi Narayanan, Social Scientist & Former Director, Mahila Samakhya, Karnataka
  41. Pascal Nazareth, IFS/Ambassador of India (Retd)
  42. Tejaswini Niranjana, Writer & Academic
  43. Vijay Padaki, Professor of Management (Retd) & Theatre Educator
  44. D. Pallavi, Singer & Theatre Artiste
  45. Poornima, Journalist, Author & Publisher
  46. Pushpamala, Artist
  47. R. Raghunandan, IAS (Retd)
  48. Suvrat Raju, Professor of Physics
  49. Sujatha Ramadorai, Researcher, Mathematician
  50. Kotiganahalli Ramaiah, Writer
  51. Mohan Rao, Professor of Public Health (retd.)
  52. Natesh Rathna, Former Director, AIISH and Theatre Artist
  53. Vijayalatha Reddy, IFS/Ambassador of India (Retd)
  54. Yellappa Reddy, Former Secretary, Ecology, Environment and Forests
  55. Mamta Sagar, Poet
  56. S. Sathyu, Film Maker & Theatre Person
  57. Abhijit Sengupta, IAS (Retd)
  58. Poile Sengupta, Writer
  59. Vivek Shanbagh, Writer
  60. Shashidhar, IAS (Retd)
  61. Prajval Shastri, Professor of Physics (retd.)
  62. Chiranjeevi Singh, IAS (Retd), Former Ambassador of India to UNESCO
  63. Ajai Kumar Singh, IPS (Retd)
  64. Pichalli Srinivas, Singer & Theatre Artist, Former Director, Karnataka Janapada Academy
  65. R. Sujatha, Poet
  66. Suresha, Director/Actor
  67. P.V. Nanjaraj Urs, Professor of History & Writer
  68. Vaidehi, Writer
  69. Rameshwari Varma, Theatre Artiste & Activist
  70. A.R. Vasavi, Professor of Agrarian Studies
  71. G. Vasudev, Artist
  72. Vijayamma, Journalist & Film Critic
  73. R. Vijayashankar, Kannada Critic and Columnist
  74. Sudhir G. Vombatkere, Engineer
  75. Vinod Vyasulu, Professor of Economics (retd.), Institute of Social and Economic Change


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