PEN South India and PEN Delhi stand in solidarity with Prof. Kancha Ilaiah, who has been facing agitations, death threats and vindictive action for his book Samajika Smuggluru Komatollu. We unequivocally condemn the Hyderabad police for filing a case against the book instead of going after Prof. Ilaiah’s detractors who are guilty of hate speech in demanding that he be publicly hanged. The Government’s failure to stop the agitations and the case against the book is clearly an attempt to deny Prof. Kancha Ilaiah his basic right to freedom of expression and speech, and seeks to intimidate him into silence.

 

The intimidation of writers in this new climate of hate and fear is becoming a norm rather than an exception.

 

Prof. Ilaiah’s ordeal began this September when he was forced to face a mob that had allegedly attacked his car near Warangal. The mob took exception to Prof Ilaiah’s book that dubbed Vysyas as social smugglers. The book was an excerpt from an English book published by Prof. Ilaiah in 2009. In a clear death threat, prominent Vysya leader and Telugu Desam MP T G Venkatesh shockingly sought public hanging of Prof Ilaiah and a ban on the book. Members of Parliament are sworn to protect and abide by the Constitution of India. Could Mr Venkatesh have been unaware of this?

 

It is pertinent to note that the state police failed to provide protection to Prof Ilaiah despite his repeated requests and complaints, forcing him to go into a self imposed house arrest till October 4. At a meeting on October 6, Prof. Ilaiah had declared that the State should be held responsible if he is ‘dead.’ “Let the world know that the State has failed” he had said.

 

The Pen centres wish to point out that Prof. Ilaiah had expressed apprehensions about the present environment being more conducive to his detractors in an interview to Scroll.in and shared his valid concerns on this issue.

 

The hounding of Prof Ilaiah, coming as it does immediately after the brutal murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh in Bangalore, is yet another example of the State’s inadequacy and willful reluctance to protect writers or allow them the freedom to speak their minds.

 

The Pen centres are distressed to note that no major progress has been made in the murders of Narendra Dabolkar, Prof. MM Kalburgi and Govind Pansare who were killed for their rational views and their fearless opposition to the Hindutva agenda.

 

We fear for Prof. Kancha Ilaiah’s life. The state must quickly and firmly intervene to stop another open, free-thinking mind from being felled by a bullet.

 

PEN recognises the importance of the Supreme Court judgement which supports the right to freedom of speech and expression but also insists that much more needs to be done by the state in terms of protecting writers from threats, intimidation and harassment.

 

PEN’s centres of South India and Delhi demand that:

 

  •          The state take stringent action against those who have been issuing death threats to Prof Ilaiah and firmly handle the agitations that demand a ban on the book.

 

  •          The case filed by the Hyderabad police against the book be immediately withdrawn.

 

  •          Adequate security be provided to Prof. Kancha Ilaiah till such time he feels safe and free.

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