New Delhi: Leading artists including Vivan Sundaram, Anjolie Ela Menon and Subodh Gupta today expressed solidarity with writers who relinquished state awards and criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi for not categorically condemning the recent attacks on rationalists and minorities.
"The scale of social violence and fatal assaults on ordinary citizens (as in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh; Udhampur, Jammu and Kashmir; Faridabad, Haryana) is escalating," said a statement signed by over 400 artists released here by Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust (SAHMAT).
The artists, also including the likes of London-based Anish Kapoor, K G Subramanyan, Nilima Sheikh and Krishen Khanna, called for a "challenge to the divisive forces through varied forms of appeal and protest, articulation and refusal".
"The contemptuous comments about the religious minorities and Dalits made by those within the government confirm that there is little difference between RSS-BJP mainstream and supposed 'fringe' elements," it said.
The artists "condemn and mourn the murders of M M Kalburgi Narender Dhabolkar and Govind Pansare, rationalists and free thinkers whose voices have been silenced by right-wing dogmatists but whose 'presence' must ignite our resistance to the conditions of hate being generated around us."
The statement recalled incidents in the past which included the "battle" fought for M F Husain who was "hounded out of the country and died in exile and the right wing invasion and dismantling of freedoms in one of the best art schools in Baroda".
"We witness 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 society," it said.
"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," it said. The artists also questioned Prime Minister Modi's "conspicuous reticence" in response to recent events and the "ignorance and prejudice" revealed by the reactions of BJP ministers in his government.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had called the writers' protest as a manufactured paper rebellion while Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma had "made abhorrent comments about mob lynching and murder".
"To these and other such provocations there is a clear answer," the artists said.