Published: 18th June 2019
Fear large-scale crackdown of freedom of expression: Why over 300 artistes, academics, students sign petition supporting Pa Ranjith
Ranging from artists to writers to filmmakers to social activists to doctors to students, a wide range of people have signed the petition
Over 300 people including artists, writers, poets, academics, journalists, students, teachers and social activists have signed a petition expressing their solidarity with director Pa Ranjith. The signatories have said in their statement that they fear that this new trend of suppressing the freedom is not limited to Ranjith and that it might extend to the crackdown of freedom of expression at large.
"The communal, caste and ethnic group always tend to attack the freedom to express. In Ranjith's case, all these three forces have come together," they state.
Some of the popular signatories are — Radhika Vemula, Raja Vemula, Cynthia Stephen, filmmaker Divya Bharathi, Evidence Kathir, writer Jeyarani, MLA Jignesh Mevani, actor Kalaiyarasan, writer Kavin Malar, journalist Kavitha Muralidharan, Leena Manimekalai, director Lenin Bharathi, writer Mathivannan, JNU prof Nivedita Menon, environmentalists Nityanand Jayaraman, prof YB Satyanarayana, Stalin Rajangam, musician Tenma.
The petition condemned the attacks and threats on Ranjith," We must discuss and debate the issues raised by having a meaningful and constructive dialogue. But unfortunately, the opposite is happening in the case of Pa Ranjith. He is being vehemently attacked and abused for his views. His phone number was shared by caste groups, religious fundamentalists, and racist
groups on public platforms. "
Criticising government's decision to initiate criminal proceedings against the director, the petitioners said, " We believe these trends only point to stifling freedom of expression by State and non-state actors. As fellow creators, artists, and authors, having faith in freedom of expression and thought, we believe it is our duty to stand with the concerned artist when his right to free speech is under threat."
The backlash started after BJP leader H Raja shared a picture of the director and his family and criticised his statements at an event to commemorate the death anniversary of TM Umar Farooq. Farooq was the founder of the Blue Tigers organization at Thirupananthal in Thanjavur district and had fought for the land rights for the Dalits in the region that Ranjith was speaking at. Here, the director criticised the monarchial clan of Raja Raja Cholan and held in responsible for taking away lands from the Dalits.
"While we have the liberty to celebrate the art and architectural developments of Raja Raja Cholan’s period, it is important to extend the same liberty to question, debate and comment on the living conditions of common people during his rule or pay attention to less introspected details like the land rights of oppressed groups," the statement read.
Stressing on the fact that our perspective can only be refined through debates and discussions, the petitioners said, "However, Pa Ranjith has been intimidated for merely expressing his point of view. Several communal and caste outfits have sent out threats. Through social media and wall posters, threats to attack or kill him and prevent the release of his films have been made. Thirupananthal police station has suo-moto filed a case against him under two sections without any prima facie. While critical thinking is the primary foundation of any creation, the comments of the judiciary on the case has further saddened us."
One of the signatories, Jyoti Nisha, who is directing a documentary titled, 'BR Ambedkar Now and Then' also started a Change.org petition in solidarity with the director. About 7000 people have signed so far.