“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 statement read.
Thursday also saw India’s first women’s march in which women, non-binary, and transwomen took to the streets in 20 states all over India to denounce Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s far-right governmental politics.
Protesters in the march called on the people to not vote for the right-wing government in the upcoming election on April 11 and asked for a change from the atmosphere of hate and fear.
India will hold a general election in seven stages starting on April 11th, the election commission announced in March. It is expected to be the world’s biggest democratic exercise with the far-right Prime Minister Narendra Modi likely to benefit from the heightened tension with Pakistan over the disputed Kashmir territory.
Pollsters have said that Modi’s ruling Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has assumed a clear advantage over opposition parties after India’s armed forces clashed with those of arch-rival Pakistan last month, triggering a wave of patriotic fervor across the country of 1.3 billion people.
Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora told reporters that about 900 million voters would be eligible for the polls, about 15 million between the ages of 18 and 19 years. Votes will be counted on May 23, he said.
“The coming elections are without doubt the most critical in the history of independent India. A democracy must empower its weakest, its most marginalized. A democracy cannot function without questioning, debate, and a vibrant opposition. All this is being concertedly eroded by the current government,” the artists’ statement says.
“The man who was portrayed as the saviour of the nation five years ago has destroyed the livelihoods of millions through his policies."