New Delhi: The Uttar Pradesh government’s controversial anti-conversion ordinance has transformed the state into “the epicentre of politics of hate, division and bigotry”, a letter signed by 104 former IAS officers, including former National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon, former Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and former Adviser to the Prime Minister TKA Nair, and released Tuesday said.
Demanding that the “illegal ordinance be withdrawn forthwith”, the signatories also said all politicians, including the Chief Minister, need to “re-educate yourselves about the Constitution which you… have sworn to uphold”.
“… UP, once known as the cradle of the Ganga-Jamuna civilisation, has become the epicentre of the politics of hate, division and bigotry, and institutions of governance are now steeped in communal poison,” the letter said.
“… a series of heinous atrocities committed by your administration against young Indians across Uttar Pradesh… Indians who are simply seeking to live their lives as free citizens of a free country.”
The letter flagged multiple instances of minorities being targeted, including a horrific case from UP’s Moradabad earlier this month – in which two men were allegedly accosted by the Bajrang Dal, dragged to the police and arrested on allegations that one of them had forced a Hindu girl to marry him.
“What is inexcusable is the police remained mute as vigilantes harassed and interrogated the innocent couple. (The woman) suffered a miscarriage, possibly as a result of harassment,” the letter said.
Last week two teenagers in UP’s Bijnor were ambushed, harassed and taken to a police station where a case of “love jihad” was filed. One teen has been in jail for over a week for allegedly forcibly trying to convert a 16-year-old Hindu girl – a charge denied by both the girl and her mother.
“Around 11.30 pm some people caught hold of us – the villagers beat us up. They accused us of theft. They caught one boy, I don’t know who he was, and they caught me. I did not know who the boy was. It is not true that he was trying to convert me,” the girl said in an interview.
“These atrocities, regardless of indignation of Indians devoted to rule of law, continue unabated. The anti-conversion ordinance… is being used as a stick to victimise especially those Indian men who are Muslim and women who dare to exercise their freedom of choice,” they added.