Over 600 theatre personalities of India, including Naseeruddin Shah, Girish Karnad, Usha Ganguli and Amol Palekar, have signed a letter urging the people to "vote BJP and its allies" out of power, alleging that the idea of India and its constitution are “under threat.”
The letter, issued on Thursday evening in 12 languages on the Artist Unite India website, said the upcoming Lok Sabha elections are the "most critical in the history" of India.
"Today, the very idea of India is under threat. Today, song, dance, laughter is under threat. Today, our beloved Constitution is under threat," the letter said.
The government has "suffocated" the institutions where argument, debate and dissent were nurtured, the letter alleged, adding "a democracy must empower its weakest, its most marginalised. 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 forces to indulge in the politics of hate and violence," it added.
The letter said Prime Minister Narendra Modi had in 2014 promised to bring back black money and “instead, rogues have looted the country and run away. The wealth of the rich has grown astronomically, while the poor have become even poorer."
The letter appealed to people to protect the "Constitution and our syncretic, secular ethos" and vote "bigotry, hatred, and apathy out of power".
"Vote to empower the weakest, protect liberty, protect the environment, and foster scientific thinking. Vote for secular democratic, inclusive India. Vote for the freedom to dream. Vote wisely," said the letter.
The 616 signatories to the statement include Shanta Gokhale, Mahesh Elkunchwar, Mahesh Dattani, Arundhati Nag, Kirti Jain, Abhishek Majumdar, Konkona Sen Sharma, Ratna Pathak Shah, Lillete Dubey, Mita Vashisth, M K Raina, Makarand Deshpande and Anurag Kashyap, among others.
Last week, a similar appeal was issued by well-known filmmakers like Anand Patwardhan, Sanal Kumar Sasidharan and Devashish Makhija, urging voters to "defeat fascism".