“WE stand at a critical juncture in our national history on the eve of a make or break election. The results will either take it forward towards our constitutional ideals or back to a brute majoritarian ideal of a so-called “nationalism”. We therefore make this impassioned appeal to our fellow citizens to save the soul of our nation from being permanently scarred by attempts to undermine our Constitution and assaults on what we hold most dear. In the last few years we have seen concerted attacks on freedom of expression, imposition of a theocratic state, unchecked mob-lynchings, state-sanctioned terror against the most vulnerable sections of society, and corporatisation of India’s national assets. The BJP-led government has created a pervasive atmosphere of fear and all-consuming hatred, which has infiltrated our homes. We believe that this sustained regressive agenda is to impose an intolerant, mono-culture and destroy our rich and diversified social fabric. We do not wish to see it a day more in office. This is thus an appeal to all thinking citizens to see through their subterfuge and vote for change.
When Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently claimed that not a single instance of “Hindu terror” could be found in the history of our country, he in a way admitted that the Bharatiya Janata Party considers itself to be an exclusive party for Hindus and their brand of Hindutva. He of course conveniently overlooked Nathuram Godse’s connection to the Hindu Mahasabha. Even if for a moment were we to believe that the BJP and its minions that form the Hindutva brigade can’t be held responsible for promoting the reign of terror and communal violence that has rocked the country in recent times, there are enough reasons for us to doubt those claims of innocence given the growing incidents of murders of those who oppose the attempt to stem the flow of their bigotry like Gauri Lankesh, Kalburgi, Pansare and Dabholkar.
It would be a Herculean task to list the wreckage caused by the current NDA government given its abject track record since 2014. It has miserably failed to deliver on any front except on optics. To begin with, we have had the colossal disaster of demonetization. While the move was meant to unearth black money, it continues to be in circulation as ever before, while the government has not deemed it necessary to account for the huge losses owing to the ill-conceived move. The legitimate demands of farmers have not been met, and they are being driven to suicide almost on a daily basis. Corruption has been rampant. The Rafale scam has exposed it at the highest level. Panama papers received no attention in spite of a significant Indian presence. Mehul Choksi, Vijay Mallya and Nirav Modi, among others, were allowed to flee the country, together with their loot.
State-owned institutions across a wide range of fields from HAL to ONGC and from BSNL to the finest of universities have suffered due to bad policies and undue interference. Unemployment is raging, incomes are stagnant, prices are rising, welfare schemes are dysfunctional, RTI laws have been diluted, labour issues have gone unaddressed, environmental laws have been grossly violated, and the list goes on. There has been rampant privatization while crony capitalism has been encouraged. The Prime Minister, meanwhile, spent a large part of his tenure pursuing dubious foreign policy initiatives, while more important core domestic issues that affect the poor and the disadvantaged were completely neglected.
The NDA government at the centre, and the governments that it has formed in various states, have attempted to cover up their failures by resorting to blatant lies, misinformation and cooked-up statistics. The central government has interfered with the functioning of autonomous institutions and constitutional bodies to further its self-interest and wield power, be it the RBI, the CBI, the ED or educational institutions. Even statistics are now not sacrosanct but are being conveniently changed to suit the narrative. There have even been attempts to interfere with the judiciary and emasculate and even manage the Election Commission.
The curriculums in schools and universities have been revised to promote Hindutva and key appointments to academic bodies and cultural institutions have been made disregarding norms, to fulfill the broad aims of the RSS. Those owing allegiance to the Hindutva brigade now are at the helm of key art and cultural institutions of the country. We artists condemn, in particular, the waste of public money on fancy cultural art projects and statues taken up by the BJP and its allies. These funds could have been far better utilized for more aesthetically appealing works of lasting significance.
The BJP has been quite vocal about its practices of misogyny, bigotry and Islamophobia and communal polarization is at an all-time peak. Violence based on caste prejudice is the new normal. Terms like love-jihad, gau hatyare, tukde-tukde gang or urban Naxals are coined to incite violence on any flimsy ground against Dalits, Muslims, intellectuals, social activists, artists, writers and vulnerable sections of society. And in almost all the cases the perpetrators of crime and violence have no fear of law and are allowed to go scot free. The concept of an ideal Indian woman being a passive actor with no agency is glorifed, while women are raped brazenly.
Ordinances are brought in breach of established parliamentary norms to polarize the polity. Fake encounters are considered a part of normal policing. In a nutshell, the rule of law is dead.
We believe that the first step towards restoring our democratic traditions as envisioned by our forefathers is to vote out the current government lock, stock and barrel and usher in a new and inclusive government that respects democracy and secular values.
We therefore fervently request you to vote against the BJP, and vote strategically for whichever party stands the best chance of defeating the BJP in your region. On the day of voting, do keep a check on any violations of electoral laws. This is perhaps the most important election that India has ever faced. It is an opportunity to save our democratic polity, protect liberty and our secular tradition. This is the only chance we have. Use it wisely.”
“… Today, song, dance, laughter is under threat. Today, our beloved Constitution is under threat. The institutions that have to nurture argument, debate and dissent have been suffocated. To question, to call out lies, to speak the truth, is branded ‘anti-national’. The seeds of hatred have entered our food, prayers and festivals….
… The coming elections are without doubt the most critical in the history of independent India. A democracy must empower its weakest, its most marginalised. A democracy cannot function without questioning, debate, and a vibrant opposition. All this is being concertedly eroded by the current government. The BJP, which came to power five years ago with the promise of development, has given free rein to Hindutva goons to indulge in the politics of hate and violence. The man who was portrayed as the saviour of the nation five years ago has destroyed the livelihoods of millions through his policies. He promised to bring back black money; instead, rogues have looted the country and run away. The wealth of the rich has grown astronomically, while the poor have become even poorer….
… We, theatre practitioners of India, appeal to the people of India to help safeguard the Constitution and our syncretic, secular ethos. We appeal to our fellow citizens to vote for love and compassion, for equality and social justice, and to defeat the forces of darkness and barbarism.
Our appeal – vote bigotry, hatred, and apathy out of power. Vote against the BJP and its allies. Vote to empower the weakest, protect liberty, protect the environment, and foster scientific thinking. Vote for secular democratic, inclusive India. Vote for the freedom to dream. Vote wisely.”
Our country is going through the most testing times ever. Though culturally vivid and geographically diverse, we have always stayed united. As a nation. It has indeed been a great feeling to be a citizen of this wonderful country.
But all that is at stake now.
Fascism threatens to strike us hard with all its might if we don’t choose wisely in the coming Lok Sabha election. Period.
As we all know, ever since the BJP came to power in 2014, things have changed. And only for the worse. A country polarised along religious lines isn’t the India we have known. Besides, the BJP and its allies have failed miserably in keeping their election promises. They are now using mob lynching and cow vigilantism to split the country communally. Marginalizing Dalits and Muslims is the name of the game. They are spreading their hate campaigns with the help of the internet and social media. Patriotism is their trump card. Any individual or institution that raises the slightest dissent is labelled ‘anti-national’. ‘Patriotism’ is how they grow their vote bank. Let us not forget that some of our eminent writers and media persons lost their lives because they dared to dissent.
Romanticizing and exploiting the armed forces is one of their strategies. Even at the risk of engaging the nation in an unnecessary war. There is unrelenting onslaught on the cultural and scientific institutions in the country. They mock the collective intelligence of the people by appointing persons with no relevance or experience as heads of these institutions, propagating unscientific and irrational beliefs even at international science seminars, making us the laughing stock of the entire world. Banning and censoring ‘works of art’, especially the most powerful of the lot – Cinema and Books – is their way of keeping the population away from the truth.
Farmers have been completely forgotten. In fact, the BJP has made the country the boardroom property of a handful of businessmen. Flawed economic policies that ended up as extreme disasters are covered up and made to look like successes. All with the help of false propaganda and marketing blitz. This has helped them to create a false optimism in the country.
Manipulation of statistics and history is another one of their fond projects. Giving them one more term in power will be a grave blunder. It could well be the last nail in the coffin for the biggest democracy in the world.
We urge all of you to do everything in your capacity to keep this harmful regime from coming back to power. Let your mandate be to choose a government that respects the Constitution of India, protects our freedom of speech and expression, and refrains from all kinds of censorship.
Yes, This is our last chance!
Our Constitution guarantees all its citizens equal rights, the freedom to eat, pray and live as they choose, freedom of expression and the right to dissent. But in the last few years, we have seen citizens being lynched or assaulted or discriminated against because of their community, caste, gender, or the region they come from. Hate politics has been used to divide the country; create fear; and exclude more and more people from living as full-fledged citizens. Writers, artists, filmmakers, musicians and other cultural practitioners have been hounded, intimidated, and censored. Anyone who questions the powers-that-be is in danger of being harassed or arrested on false and ridiculous charges.
All of us want this to change. We don’t want rationalists, writers and activists to be hounded or assassinated. We want stern measures against violence in word or deed against women, dalits, adivasis and minority communities. We want resources and measures for jobs, education, research, healthcare and equal opportunities for all. Most of all, we want to safeguard our diversity and let democracy flourish.
How do we do this? How do we bring about the change we need so urgently? There are many things we need to do and can do. But there is a critical first step.
The first step, the one we can take soon, is to vote out hate politics. Vote out the division of our people; vote out inequality; vote against violence, intimidation and censorship. This is the only way we can vote for an India that renews the promises made by our Constitution. This is why we appeal to all citizens to vote for a diverse and equal India.