More than 600 theatre artistes from across the country have urged the electorate to vote for "equality and social justice, and to defeat the forces of darkness and barbarism". A joint statement issued by them, targeting the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) urged the voters to "help safeguard the Constitution and our syncretic, secular ethos".
The signatories include Amol Palekar, Arundhati Nag, Astad Deboo, Arshia Sattar, Danish Husain, Girish Karnad, Naseeruddin Shah, MK Raina, Kavitha Lankesh, Konkona Sen Sharma, Lillette Dubey, Mallika Taneja and Navtej Johar.
The appeal said: "Theatre makers in India have a long and proud tradition of standing against forces of religious sectarianism, chauvinism, narrowness and irrationality... We have imagined a secular, democratic, inclusive and just India.”
"Today, that very idea of India is under threat. Today, song, dance, laughter is under threat. Today, our Constitution is under threat. The institutions that have to nurture argument, debate and dissent have been suffocated," the statement added.
The appeal described the coming general elections as the "most critical in the history of independent India".
The theatre practitioners requested voters to elect "love and compassion, for equality and social justice, and to defeat the forces of darkness and barbarism".
Speaking about Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the need for a strong opposition, the statement added, “A democracy cannot function without questioning, debate, and a vibrant opposition. All this is being concertedly eroded by the current government. The BJP, which came to power five years ago with the promise of development, has given free rein to Hindutva goons to indulge in the politics of hate and violence. The man who was portrayed as the saviour of the nation five years ago has destroyed the livelihoods of millions through his policies. He promised to bring back black money; instead, rogues have looted the country and run away. The wealth of the rich has grown astronomically, while the poor have become even poorer.”
"Our appeal - vote bigotry, hatred, and apathy out of power. Vote against the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) and its allies... Vote for secular democratic, inclusive India... Vote wisely," the artists concluded.