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The All India Cultural Convention – Pratirodh Ek Jan Sanskritik Dakhal held at Bhillai, Chhattisgarh on the 16th and 17th of March 2019 saw the participation of more than two hundred representatives from various cultural action groups across India.
The aim to have these discussions at a national level was conceived to develop a united and common space for collective action, build up the ideological frameworks to understand and address these inequalities but also to support cultural activists from diverse fields and add strength to their movements in their area of engagement.
The Convention asserts that ‘Cultural Activist’ would include any and all individuals and groups who engage in building resistance through their art, be it films, songs, artwork, poetry, literature, theatre, dance and such. It would include artists who are nationally known for their progressive work and it will also include people from various social movements, from various sections of the society, whose battle cries are songs of resistance, born from their experiences of struggle against an unfair system.
In the two day vibrant discussions and cultural performances, the participants affirmed that the roots of cultural action in a vibrant democracy are the celebration of a collective will for peace, of living together with dignity and equality. The richness of the roots of the Indian democracy lies in the diversity of all kinds. This is not to state that there are no structures of inequality in this diversity but to address these structures of inequality, and devise modes of resistance to change the system at various levels across the country.
India is currently undergoing social, political and economic unrest on a massive scale, especially in the last five years of the political dispensation at the Centre. Laced with the propaganda of the current ruling party, a horde of popular culture items (films, songs, shows etc) are being unleashed on an unsuspecting but thoroughly pliable audience which is the agenda of Saffronising the country. This keeps the populace distracted, engaged in larger than life illusions and away from the reality of the country. Ideas about freedom, equality, democracy, unity and progress are being appropriated to fit a corporate riddled agenda of profit and ‘development’.
Simultaneously along with the above mentioned scenario, individuals/groups associated with natural resources, human rights, displacement, violence, gender, caste discrimination, filmmaking, etc. are constantly been intimidated, jailed, slapped with sedition cases or even attacked. Instances like the Bhima Koregaon case, threats to the filmmaker Divya Bharati, invisibilising and jailing of many activists across India, appears to be the new normal today. It is not an accident that the ones who are facing the brunt of the viciousness of the State sponsored forces and right wing actors are the Dalits, Adivasis, Muslims, and other marginalized groups of the society. This is a calculated move by Hindutva fascist forces and needs to be challenged with all kinds of cultural expressions which we possess.
The current political dispensation has made inroads into each institution of governance and devising ways to dismantle them which would have huge repercussions. This breakdown is just a mechanism to hand over the control of our lives to the corporate. In the long run, this looks to fit the agenda of the ruling elite which will shift the concept of democracy into ‘corporatocracy’ which will be ‘Of the corporate, By the Corporate and For the Corporate’. This agenda, mixed with the ferment of Hindutva definitely is the perfect recipe for the complete breakdown of what our democracy.
The convention believes that any cultural activist is the mirror of the society and is expected to respond to the inequalities which exists or are emerging in the society. As the attack on freedom of expression is on the rise, it becomes the responsibility and ethics of them to voice it loudly through various expressions. This is a struggle which needs to be fought at each stage, which throws up questions and also challenges the silence which prevails in a situation of despair.
The convention also acknowledges the role that the audiovisual medium is playing in heightening and disseminating the hatred and communal tendency that the right wing is propagating. The convention endorses the need of critical thinking of audiovisual that we have access to, and also devise alternate modes of documenting and responding the ground realities through collective action.
This convention declares that we refuse to be silent that we believe in the right to not be silent against the injustice happening around us. We shall speak, we shall perform, we shall dance, we shall sing towards that dawn when the idea of justice is materialized in this country.