NEW DELHI: A group of intellectuals and economists today came out in support of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Digital India campaign and his upcoming Silicon Valley visit, which is being opposed by a section of US academicians, who contend that the programme will be used for "dubious" purposes like curbing civil liberties here.
Launching a counter petition against the one by the US academicians, who have written to tech giants warning of risks in dealing with the government over Digital India campaign, the group maintained that American intellectuals have crossed the thin line between hitting out at Modi and hurting India.
It is high time it is told "enough is enough", it said.
They insisted Digital India programme is an "important mission" that can transform lives of people here and lessons from Modi's visit to the Valley are crucial in this regard.
"E-governance, digitalisation have produced dramatic results in curbing corruption. When citizens are yearning for it, US academicians are calling for economic boycott.
"We never heard (from them) that Pakistan, which is a mother of terrorism, be boycotted or China which is conducting human rights abuses in Tibet be economically boycotted.
"This for nth time that this group of intellectuals have crossed the 'laxman rekha' between hitting out at Modi and hurting India," Madhu Kishwar, professor and founder of Manushi - a journal about women - told reporters.
Kishwar said the group here has no problem if the American academicians criticise Modi, but measures such as appeal for economic boycott are aimed at hurting India.
"And some of us at least are convinced there are vested interests behind such moves. It is a consistent witch hunt that has gone on for over a decade and I think it is time we too stood up and say enough is enough," she said, adding the counter petition has been signed also by those who don't have association with the BJP.
According to reports, over 100 US academicians have written to major tech companies warning them against risks of dealing with Indian government, which they claimed, has demonstrated its disregard for civil liberties and human rights besides autonomy of cultural and educational institutions.
They also expressed concerns over alleged lack of safeguards about privacy of information in the campaign and its alleged potential for abuse.
Yes Bank senior vice president Preeti Sinha, who accompanied Kishwar along with economist Laveesh Bhandari, extended support to Centre's programme saying the same is set to transform lives of people here.
On Modi's visit to the Valley, she said, there are lessons which need to be learnt from the innovation hub.
"So, it is very dastardly for people to protest against his visit. And when the lessons are brought here, it will really help us transom our people's lives. So, we are fully supporting Modi as he goes forward in his missions of Digital India, Make in India," Sinha said.
Bhandari asserted Digital India will take people "far far ahead" vis-à-vis telecom revolution and stressed that it is "extremely" critical for all to come together on the issue.
Countering concerns expressed by US academicians over Modi's alleged culpability for 2002 Gujarat riots, the group said their views have reflected their "scant disregard" for Indian judicial system as Supreme Court has exonerated the leader of all charges in connection with the episode.
"We urge academicians to lift veil of ignorance and grasp the bigger picture. They should stop seeking fame by thriving on misplaced victimhood and false grievances.
"It is ironic that those who claim to be most exercised about 'human rights' and 'civil liberties' have arrogated themselves to the power to judge and mock the democratic choice of those very same masses they purport to speak on behalf," the group said in a statement released later.
The petition has been signed by intellectuals, scientists, economists including FICCI president Jyotsna Suri, ASSOCHAM chief Rana Kapoor, ex-Agricultural Costs and Prices Commission chairman Ashok Gulati, former Samta Party chief Jaya Jaitley, eminent classical dancer Sonal Mansingh and working and retired professors of premium institutes like IIT-Delhi and Kanpur and Indian and foreign varsities. The petition has been also been launched online at change.org.