Welcome heat: After writers, 400 artists speak out against intolerance
India's top writers have been speaking out against the growing culture of intolerance, and now they have been joined by over 400 artists, who regret the ideology of the ruling party that has revealed its "contempt for creative and intellectual work" and its "attempts to impose conformity of thought, belief and practice".
Artists from across the country signed a statement to air their angst against Prime Minister Narendra Modi who has been conspicuously reticent in his response to the recent events.
Top artists -- Anjolie Ela Menon, Jatin Das, Aparna Caur and Sugata Roy -- have joined the ranks with scores of writers, who returned their Sahitya Akademi awards or resigned from the Akademi's general council, to protest against the culture of silence.
"We condemn and mourn the murders of MM Kalburgi, Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare, rationalists and free thinkers whose voices have been silenced by rightwing dogmatists but whose 'presence' must ignite our resistance to the conditions of hate being generated around us," reads a statement issued by over 400 artists.
Among the 400 artists are prominent faces like Anjolie Ela Menon, Jatin Das, Arpita Singh, Vivan Sundaram, Aneesh Kapoor, Atul Dodiya, Subodh Gupta, Shireen Gandhi and R Sivakumar.
They recalled the battle that they fought for India's own Picasso - MF Husain - who was shunted out of the country, and who yearned to return to India but was never allowed.
"We will never forget the battle we fought for our pre-eminent artist MF Husain who was hounded out of the country and died in exile. We remember the right-wing invasion and dismantling of freedoms in one of the country's best known art schools in Baroda."
The artists also spoke out against the present government's appointment of grossly unqualified persons to the FTII Society and its disregard of the ongoing strike by the students of this leading institute.
"We see a writer like Perumal Murugan being intimidated into declaring his death as a writer, a matter of dire shame in any society.
"His (the culture minister's) remarks suggesting that writers should stop writing to prove their point are alarming - empowered as he is to take policy decisions in the domain of culture."
An angry community
The artists expressed regret at Minister of Finance and I&B, Arun Jaitley, mocking the actions of writers as a manufactured "paper rebellion" and asking for scrutiny of their political and ideological affiliations.
"To these and other such provocations there is a clear answer...It is this that the ruling party will have to reckon with: the protestors' declared disaffiliation from a government that encourages marauding outfits to enforce a series of regressive commands in this culturally diverse country."
The community expressed shock over the scale of social violence and fatal assaults on ordinary citizens in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh; Udhampur, Jammu and Kashmir; Faridabad and Haryana.
"The contemptuous comments about the religious minorities and Dalits made by those within the government confirm that there is little difference between the RSS-BJP mainstream and supposed 'fringe' elements," their statement said.
They regretted that the "Sangh Parivar and its Hindutva forces operating through their goon brigades form the support base of this government".
The artist resolved that as in the past they would challenge the divisive forces through varied forms of appeal and protest, articulation and refusal.
"A government that does not tolerate difference, that does not safeguard the lives and interests of its marginalised and vulnerable citizens, loses its legitimacy in a democratic polity. We are facing this situation now, already," the statement concluded.
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