Indian armed forces veterans write letter to PM
More than a hundred veterans from the Indian Armed Forces on Monday wrote an open letter to the prime minister voicing their concern over the recent attacks on Muslims and Dalits -- at the bottom of the Hindu caste system.
"What is happening in our country today strikes at all that the armed forces, and indeed what our constitution stands for," said the letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi which was signed by 114 veterans.
It added: "We are witness to unprecedented attacks on society at large by the relentless vigilantism of self-appointed protectors of Hinduism."
India has seen increased incidents of mob lynching over beef rumors in recent months. Last month, a mob stabbed to death a 16-year-old Muslim man, Junaid Khan, on a train to Mathura city from New Delhi, accusing him of carrying bags filled with beef.
In a similar incident also last month, a 45-year-old Muslim trader was killed by a mob of more than 100 people in Jharkhand's Ramgarh district on suspicion of carrying beef in his car.
The letter which was sent to chief ministers of all states and lieutenant-governors of union territories, said the attacks were dividing society on the basis of religion, something which went against the secular ideals of the country.
The veterans extended their support to an ongoing campaign 'Not in my name', which has been able to gather hundreds of protesters on the streets in different Indian cities, against the growing incidents of vigilante justice.
"We can no longer look away. We would be doing a disservice to our country if we do not stand up and speak for the liberal and secular values that our constitution espouses. Our diversity is our greatest strength. Dissent is not treason. In fact, it is the essence of democracy," the letter added.
The veterans condemned the clampdown on free speech through attacks on the media, universities and the civil society.
Also on Monday, the Indian National Congress, a secular political party, raised the issue of cow vigilantism in the Parliament.
Mallikarjun Kharge, the party leader, said, "Violence in the name of protecting cows is not stopping. The entire country is living in fear and there is an atmosphere of terror," he said.
"It is shameful that the government is incapable of taking any action," he added.
Cows are considered sacred in the Hindu religion. After the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2014, many states in the country enacted harsher laws against cow slaughter.