Modi visit: writers protest poor freedom of expression in India

Leading writers including bestsellers and Booker winners urge David Cameron to address violence toward dissenting Indian journalists, writers and artists

Alex Dymoke
Friday 13 November 2015 20:21
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Over 200 writers urged David Cameron to “take action to safeguard freedom of expression in India” as Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in London yesterday.

The writers, who include Ian McEwan, Salman Rushdie and Val McDermid, put their names to an open letter, published by PEN International, highlighting the “rising climate of fear, growing intolerance and violence toward critical voices who challenge orthodoxy and fundamentalism in India.”

The letter refers to three public intellectuals (Malleshappa Madivalappa Kalburgi, Govind Pansare and Narendra Dabholkar) killed in the last two years. At least 37 journalists have been killed in the country since 1992, and impunity enjoyed by people who attack members of the media is getting worse rather than better.

The Indian government has failed to act decisively against attacks on journalists and artists, leading many public intellectuals to renounce honours awarded by the Sahitya Akademi, the country’s National Academy of Letters.

The letter implores David Cameron to raise these issues with Modi during his visit, and to “urge him to provide better protection for writers, artists and other critical voices and ensure that freedom of speech is safeguarded.” Without these protections, the letter concludes, “a democratic, peaceful society is not possible.”

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