‘Reclaim Diwali’ Festival in London, Burn Demons of Hindutva Fascism, #ModiNotWelcome
LONDON (7 November 2015): At a packed hall in south London, some 200 people attended South Asia Solidarity Group's cultural event, Reclaim Diwali, which is part of the #ModiNotWelcome protests.
The event, 'a secular celebration of shared cultures and blurred boundaries' which would 'burn the demons of Hindutva Fascism, religious hatred, patriarchy, caste, homophobia, corporate looting, racism, imperialism and environmental destruction', showcased the work of many of the most exciting, mainly South Asian artists in the UK and was an inspiring display of international solidarity against Hindutva fascism and Narendra Modi linking up powerfully with the theme of the evening.
The dancers included Kali Chandrasegaram who performed a Rumi inspired piece set to Indian classical music about reclaiming one's different selves followed by a modern dance about breaking boundaries and transgressing the rules about whom one should love. Poets included Talha Ahsan - winner of the Platinum and Bronze Koestler Award for 2012, who read a poem titled 'Otherstani' which echoed the feelings of minorities in India today. There were also comedy sketches about the rights of cows to urinate in private by award-winning writer and film maker Tariq Mehmood. Other well-known performers included rising star, singer-songwriter Tabitha Benjamin who has a host of fans in the UK and Kenyan poet Wangui Wa Goro, well known for her anti-imperialist and feminist activism. Tamil dancers performed Bharatnatyam choreographed to political poetry and Bengali songs of Lalon and Nazrul, presented by Mukul and the Ghetto Tigers, continued to inspire the crowd.
Kalpana Wilson representing South Asia Solidarity Group and Freedom Without Fear Platform, two of the organisers of the event, highlighted the fascist nature of the RSS and its pro-colonial history, and the links with Modi's current wooing of the modern day East India Companies, noting that Cameron will be discussing deals on military aviation which under Modi will be used against India's own people, as in Chhattisgarh. She predicted that Modi will be facing the biggest ever protest he has encountered in his foreign trips and urged everyone to attend the demonstration on 12 November.
Messages of solidarity were received from numerous organisations. Sat Pal Muman, Chairperson of CasteWatchUK - UK's largest Dalit organisation condemned the rising atrocities against Dalits and urged the enthusiastic crowd to be at the demo. Andrea D'Cruz from London Palestine Solidarity Action spoke about the links between Netanyahu and Narendra Modi, highlighting the fact that India is the largest purchaser of Israeli arms. Sanjeevini Dutta of Kadam Dance and Music said that under the present government, history is being re-written, academics threatened and the press gaged. She said 'We want you [Modi] to know that many of us are watching your moves and we will speak out against these over and over again'.
Nirmala Rajasingham from the Kalalaya Arts Foundation UK condemned the imprisoning of the progressive activist and folk singer Kovan, a week ago, by the Tamil Nadu government, under sedition charges purely because his popular song against the Tamil Nadu government's Tasmac Alcohol outlets went viral and the repressive campaign of the Indian state against the Dalit arts group Kabir Kala Manch."
The show had started with 'confluence' by poet Shruti Iyer while spoken word artist Shareefa Energy brought the evening to a resounding close with pieces like 'Thomas Cook' and 'Phoenix Bonfire'