A group of over 100 eminent citizens today expressed concern over the possibility of Narendra Modi becoming prime minister, saying his "infamous role" in the massacre of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002 is being brushed aside to promote him as a "tough" leader.
Severely critical of Modi, they said people were being subjected to a media blitz to convince them that Modi was the man the country needed now, and warned about the dangers of bigotry and communal divide if he becomes PM.
"As India heads towards another general election soon we, the undersigned, would like to warn the people of India about the rising danger of bigotry, communal divide, organized violence on and hatred for sections of people in the country," they said in a statement released by noted Jnanpith award winner U R Ananthamurthy.
Poet Ashok Vajpeyi and Planning Commission member Sayeda Hameed were also present at the media interaction.
The intellectuals said the "corporate media campaign" has already "overawed" the BJP to surrender before the 'strongman of Gujarat'.
"Modi's infamous role in the massacre of Muslims in his state in 2002 is being brushed aside and he is promoted as morally 'fit enough' to lead the nation."
"False statistical claims, full of half truths, are being used to present Gujarat as a model that all of India should follow to attain high economic growth," it said.
The signatories include Madhu Prasad, Mihir Pandya, K Satchidanandan, S Irfan Habib, Sania Hashmi, Tanveer Akhtar, Neelam Mansingh, Raza Haider, Neelam Mansingh, Mrinalini Mukherjee, Mohsin Khan, Prabhat Patnaik, Nikhil Kumar, Ramesh Dixit, Geeta Kapur, K Ashok Rao, Javed Akhtar Khan, D N Jha, Anil Kumar Sinhaand Anuradha Kapur and M K Raina.
They said the Lok Sabha election will be a test for people of India as it will determine whether the country was strong enough to reject the idea of a "hard state and a hard leader".
"Are we sensitive enough not to support an ideology that renders invisible large sections of the population or people? Can we prevent the politics of hatred and contempt for democracy from triumphing over the great Indian tradition of tolerance and brotherhood," they questioned.
Addressing the press conference, Ananthamurthy said he has a feeling that the country may slowly lose its democratic rights and it may result in a "shift in our civilisation" if Modi becomes the Prime Minister.
Ananthamurthy said he favoured a "supple" government, which can meet diverse demands rather than a strong dispensation which would impose homogeneity.
Vajpeyi said there can't be a "messiah" who will will clean up everything. "We should be aware of this. The singular person is no longer asking for votes for his party. He is clearly asking for votes for himself."
Questioning Modi's development agenda, Hameed said Gujarat was behind several other states in many key areas.
Ananthamurthy, who had said that he would leave the country if Modi becomes the PM, said those remarks were made when he was "overcome by emotion" and clarified that he had no such plan.
"A few months ago in Bangalore in a meeting, I was overcome by emotion, and I said I will not live in a country where Modi is Prime Minister. That was too much to say because I can't go anywhere except India," he said.
He said that an atmosphere was being created to allow Modi to rise and even media and liberals were part of this campaign.
Ananthamurthy said that he had been accused by former Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa of drawing Rs 1 lakh salary as the chancellor of Central University which was incorrect.