We write to express our anguish and outrage at the continuing brutalities visited upon Christian communities and places of worship in Orissa and Karnataka, and elsewhere in India, as well as at the pusillanimous attitude of our political leaders towards the perpetrators of these atrocities.
While the police have stood by and watched churches being desecrated and acts of assault and rape carried out, the Central Government has reacted vigorously only after representatives of the European Union expressed their concern. The perceived damage to India's international image should not be a greater concern than the actual damage that such violence causes to the inclusive, multi-religious and multi-ethnic character of Indian society.
This violence is a failure of our political institutions and of civil society. It is a consequence of our failure to uphold the principles of the rule of law, mutual understanding, and civil dialogue. Eventually, such violence does not remain confined to a few clearly targeted victims. Rather, it spreads to engulf and destroy the entire society that spawns it, as is evident in neighbouring Pakistan and Sri Lanka, for instance.
The worst contributors to this scenario are politicians who dream of electoral victory at the cost of social catastrophe. The powerful ideal of 'unity in diversity', which has held this country together for six decades, has been seriously imperilled by the use of religious and ethnic prejudice as a political weapon. Intolerance of those different from ourselves, and the abandoning of reasoned discussion to deal with differences, spells the end of the India for which the freedom struggle was waged.
More and more of us must come out and say clearly that we do not share the dreams of these cynical opportunists. Their India is not the India we dream of. The India we dream of is a just society, not an aggressive power.
We call upon the Indian Government to ensure that hate speech is outlawed from the domain of public discourse. We also call upon the Indian Government to outlaw those political parties which, directly or through their cohorts, promote communal discord and encourage violence. The rule of law implies that every citizen's life is sacred. Let the law act decisively to punish those who perpetrate the appalling crimes of pogrom and murder.
THE PEN ALL-INDIA CENTRE