In India’s recent history the politics of hate, division and exclusion has never been so dominant as we find it today, with a poisonous ideology which informs it deeply entrenched into the state and in governance. Never before has hate been directed with such calculated intent against Muslims, Christians, Adivasis, Dalits, women, trans people, people in conflict areas and even children.
The right to life, the right to love, food choices, cultural expression, language and histories are all under assault by this politics, which is at war with the people of India and their diverse cultures. Cultural and social life in India is being torn asunder by a toxic cocktail of propaganda, violence, censorship and distorted histories.
India is a uniquely rich repository of cultures that evolved out of long histories of philosophical, religious, literary, linguistic and artistic encounters. Those who wish to subsume politics into the imperatives of populist regression are attacking all aspects of this culture, which stands firmly in opposition to their idea of a monolithic and exclusionist India.
New cultural narratives are being spawned by this ideology of hate, imbued with a sense of victimhood, revenge, aggression, and violence that has manifested itself in many forms, from horrific acts of lynching to the murderous attacks on writers and artists, the violent disruption of cultural events, destruction of educational and cultural institutions and the rewriting of school text-books. The emancipatory and spiritual possibilities of culture are being replaced by a language that relies solely on war cries, propaganda, and the images, metaphors, visions and sounds of supremacy.
The ongoing assault on culture is an attack on democracy. When cultural life is attacked democracy itself is in peril because of the disappearance of a language that articulates our shared spiritual and social lives, shared histories and shared memories. Democracy is not a majoritarian project to identify enemies and enforce uniformity of language, behaviour and culture. Democracy is the celebration of a collective will for peace, of living together with dignity and equality.
As artists and cultural practitioners we are and will continue to resist the politics of hate. We are and will continue to safeguard a culture that speaks of humanity and democracy; a culture that finds its echo in the fundamental rights enshrined in the Indian constitution. We recognize that the populist hate politics of today is riding the wave of disenchantment with democratic, secular political parties that have failed to deliver on the social democratic charter of the constitution. Pernicious inequalities based on class, caste, ethnicity, religion and gender not only pose a moral crisis for the country but they also reflect a political failure.
Recent reports suggest that one percent of our population has appropriated 73 per cent of the wealth generated in 2017, a statistic that speaks about the state of poverty and desperation, as well as the nature of development that is being promoted in the country. An agrarian crisis is taking its toll on millions of farmers. Adivasis are being driven out of their forests. Workers lives have become ever more precarious. We are spiralling towards an ecological disaster on the back of an idea of development that has become synonymous with greed and profiteering.
We appeal to democratic, secular political parties to think anew of a politics rooted in economic and social justice; ecological and environmental sustainability; plurality and diversity; decentralization and devolution of power; ethics, love, compassion, tolerance and the rule of law.
As artists and cultural practitioners were-dedicate ourselves at this critical moment to defend a culture that speaks of love, equality and solidarity. We will fight hate with love. We will counter violence with peace. Through our images, speech, words, music and bodies we will resist the cultural destruction of India.
Signature and Convention
As we enter an election year, with strong indications that we will witness the cynical triggering of more violence and the fanning of communal hatred, the need for the broad ‘arts’ community to speak up has become more urgent than ever. To be signed by artists and litterateurs from across the country the declaration is a collective statement of resistance by artists, a commitment to create anti hate work, and an appeal to various democratic and secular political parties to commit to anti hate steps.
The above declaration is also a call for a national convention of artists to be held in Delhi on 2nd & 3rd March 2019, with simultaneous events in several other cities and towns. The idea behind the convention is to weigh in with a collective voice, and with a creative energy that makes arts and literature a site of resistance to the hate politics that is sweeping the country. The convention will serve the twin purpose of providing an opportunity for artists and litterateurs to become part of a creative, collective process of resistance as well as create resources and forge connections with other resistance movements and collectives.
If you need more information or want to organise an artists protest in your city/town on 2nd & 3rd March 2019 please send an email to – firstname.lastname@example.org
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You can endorse as an individual or on behalf of an organization. As an individual please state your name, arts discipline and place of residence. If endorsing as an organization please mention the name of the network or platform.