London: Over 200 prominent authors including Salman Rushdie have asked British Prime Minister David Cameron to raise the issue of "rising climate of fear" and "growing intolerance" in India with counterpart Narendra Modi, in second letter from the PEN International in less than a month.
Booker Prize winner Rushdie, recent Booker prize shortlisted British-Indian author Neel Mukherjee and other well-known names like Ian McEwan and Hari Kunzru are among the signatories of the open letter to Cameron that seeks to ensure "freedom of speech is safeguarded" in India.
The letter issued yesterday is the second from the PEN International - a worldwide membership organisation for prominent literary figures - in less than a month over the issue of "rising intolerance" in India.
On October 17, writers from 150 countries had expressed solidarity with dissenting Indian authors and artistes who returned their prestigious awards.
The latest letter also signed by members of its centres in England, Wales and Scotland says: "We, the undersigned, are extremely concerned about the rising climate of fear, growing intolerance and violence towards critical voices who challenge orthodoxy or fundamentalism in India... We urge you to engage with Prime Minister Modi both publicly and privately on this crucial issue.
"Please speak out on the current state of freedom of expression in his country, urging him to stay true to the spirit of the democratic freedoms enshrined in India's Constitution."
It points to the recent murders of the intellectuals Malleshappa Madivalappa Kalburgi, Govind Pansare and Narendra Dabholkar, and to the protests that have seen at least 40 Indian writers return literary awards to the Sahitya Akademi, the National Academy of Letters, in condemnation of its silence over the attacks.
It also refers to last month's cancellation of a concert by Pakistani singer Ghulam Ali due to protests by Shiv Sainiks in Mumbai and the infamous ink attack on Sudheendra Kulkarni, chairman of Observer Research Foundation (ORF), pointing out how despite its constitutional commitments, legal system in India makes it "surprisingly easy to silence others".