Over 100 notable writers call on President Murmu to support free expression

 President Droupadi Murmu. File.

President Droupadi Murmu. File. | Photo Credit: PTI

Over 100 notable international writers and artists on Monday expressed concern over the state of freedom of expression in India and called on President Droupadi Murmu to support democratic ideals.

The group of 102 writers, including Marina Abramovic, Paul Auster, J.M. Coetzee, Jennifer Egan, Jonathan Franzen, Azar Nafisi, and Orhan Pamuk, joined the writers’ organisations PEN America and PEN International in signing the letter to Ms. Murmu, a statement by PEN America said.

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“As India celebrates 75 years of independence, the state of free expression is under grave threat and is being mourned rather than celebrated,” said PEN America’s director of Free Expression at Risk Programs Karin Deutsch Karlekar.

The joint letter, which was signed by PEN America and PEN International as well as over 100 prominent writers, urged Ms. Murmu to support free expression in the spirit of India’s Independence.

“Free expression is the cornerstone of a robust democracy. By weakening this core right, all other rights are at risk and the promises made at India’s birth as an independent republic are severely compromised,” the letter said.

The statement added that in a separate initiative, PEN America had brought out a collection of original writings titled India at 75 by 113 Indian and Indian diaspora writers, including Salman Rushdie, whose writing was shared before the attack on him on August 12. The authors included Jhumpa Lahiri, Abraham Verghese, Shobhaa De, Rajmohan Gandhi, Romila Thapar, Aakar Patel, Anita Desai, Geetanjali Shree, Perumal Murugan, P. Sainath, Kiran Desai, Suketu Mehta and Zia Jaffrey. The pieces reflected on the state of freedom of expression in India as it celebrates its 75th Independence Day.

“Together, the two initiatives represent a rallying cry to uphold the freedom to write, and to encourage writers and public intellectuals to continue their key role in contributing to India’s once vibrant democracy. Threats against free speech, academic freedom, and digital rights have accelerated in India in recent years,” the PEN America statement read.

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Printable version | Aug 16, 2022 1:35:47 pm |