People’s Alliance for Democracy and Secularism: Statement on the harrassment of Shirin Dalvi

People’s Alliance for Democracy and Secularism (PADS) joins all freedom loving people in denouncing the attempts to harass Ms. Shirin Dalvi, the reputed editor of the Urdu daily, Avadhanama, Mumbai in the name of hurting religious sentiments of Muslims. She had published a news story on the Charlie Hebdo massacre and republished a cover of the French magazine. Though she has apologized and stated that she did not have any intention to hurt religious sentiments of anybody she, however, has been charged with several different cases offences and even arrested. The newspaper she works for has had to close down and all its employees have been deprived of their jobs. All this is happening in the name of someone’s sentiments.
Ms Dalvi has received threatening phone-calls and messages. In brief, she is being subjected to physical intimidation and has had to take refuge in hiding. She is frightened for the sake of her children. She is being mentally tortured because the BJP government in Maharashtra is deliberately siding with hooligans claiming to represent the Muslim community.
PADS expresses its indignation at the treatment being meted out to Ms Dalvi and her family by the complainants in these cases, as well as the Maharashtra police and state authorities who are expected to defend citizens, not collaborate with their tormentors. Their sentiments may be hurt – but they have no right to intimidate and terrorise people. Our sentiments are even more hurt by the brazen threats issued to vulnerable people by these self-appointed warriors of religion.
At a time when India’s political atmosphere is already stinking of foul communal odours, the Maharashtra government’s complicity with Muslim fundamentalists is clearly meant to provide a free hand to other varieties of communalism in future. It wants to appear to be evenhanded in the discharge of its constitutional duty. But its duty was to protect Ms Dalvi and firmly oppose the communalists. Instead it has shown its contempt for the constitutional guarantee of freedom of expression; and failed to respect and defend the security and personal freedoms of the citizen.

PADS is relieved to learn that the body of the Mumbai journalists and other organizations have expressed their solidarity with the harassed editor. PADS demands that the state government withdraw all cases launched against Ms Shirin Dalvi and provide full protection to her and her family.

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