Several Artists from across India have come together under the banner of ‘Artists Unite!’ and signed a declaration with the intention of reinforcing public traditions that speak “for democracy, and against hate”.
Around 450 signatories from more than 20 locations in the country have cautioned that the ongoing assault on culture is an attack on democracy and asserted that “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”.
The platform has also announced a two-day national convention in Delhi next year, to be held simultaneously with similar events nationwide. The convention will be held on February 16 and 17.
“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,” the declaration reads.
Read the full declaration below:
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 recognise 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; decentralisation 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.
The signatories include a diverse list of well-known names from the field of arts in India including artists Atul Dodiya, Nalini Malini, Ranbir Kaleka, Sudhir Patwardhan, Venkat Raman Singh Shyam and Vivan Sundaram; art critic and historian Geeta Kapur; dancers Aditi Mangaldas, Astad Deboo, Mallika Sarabhai and Navtej Johar; film-makers Anand Patwardhan, Chitra Palekar, Kabir Khan, Kiran Rao, Nandita Das, Saeed Akhtar Mirza, Shonali Bose and; screenwriters Anjum Rajabali, Vinay Shukla and Shama Zaidi; actors Naseeruddin Shah and Ratna Pathak Shah; musicians Neela Bhagwat, Rahul Ram, T.M. Krishna and Vidya Rao; and photographers Dayanita Singh and Sudharak Olwe.