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Colourful protest festival at Red Fort, artistes unite against 'assault on culture'

PTI | New Delhi | Updated: 03-03-2019 18:58 IST | Created: 03-03-2019 18:58 IST
Colourful protest festival at Red Fort, artistes unite against 'assault on culture'

A high-octane rap, a thought-provoking nukkad natak, a poet reciting poems celebrating love, and a band playing songs on 'protest and change', the 15 August Park in front of the Red Fort is buzzing with all kinds of activities. More than 200 artistes have gathered at the historic monument in Delhi for an innovative two-day event against what they call an "assault on culture" and "attack on democracy" in India. The organisers are calling it a "protest festival".

Decked up with hundreds of contemporary posters — against lynching, communal hatred and war, the site is a sight to anyone paying attention. One poster mocks the government's promised "good times" by showing people from rural India wearing virtual reality headsets and waiting in a queue outside a theatre showing "Achhe Din".

Another displays a mob surrounding a man and beating him with sticks as onlookers capture the incident on cell-phones. "Words can be moulded. Question everything. On social media, everyone is an expert. We are not binary. Popular opinion can be wrong. Read 1984 by George Orwell," reads a poster titled "Antidotes To Hate".

Besides topical posters, the event also displays works of artistes such as Pushpamala N, Tushar Joag and Prabhakar Pachpute. Documentary films are also being screened. Shubam, from rap group Azaad Forward Bloc which performed at the protest site, said the artistes gathered are putting to meaningful use their respective art to spread the word.

"We, as a nation, are going through a bad phase," the 19-year-old said. "I write rap. I know I can make people aware of various issues in my 16-line rap... My words can change minds for better. I have come to the protest festival to do that," he added.

The event saw fewer footfalls Saturday, possibly due to rainfall. But the crow swelled on Sunday. Rashi Girotra, a Delhi University student, said she would have attended the "festival" on Saturday too had the weather permitted.

"The crowd, as you see, is picking today. I am sure it will be jam-packed by evening. People know how important it is to stand united at this time," Girotra said. For the uninitiated, the seeds of Artistes Unite, the collective organising the event, were sown during the first 'Not in My Name!' campaign in 2017.

Helmed by documentary filmmaker Saba Dewan, that campaign was organised to protest the lynching of 16-year-old Junaid aboard a train in the name of religion. "AU came together as a platform because we as citizens and artistes felt that we must come together to resist the culture and politics of hate, and speak up for democracy," Dewan told PTI. Dewan is also behind this event.

Some of the artistes participating in the festival are Dhruv Sangari, Rabbi Shergill, Shubha Mudgal, Sonam Kalra, Maya Rao, Fouzia Dastango, Ashok Vajpeyi, Akhil Katyal, Arpita Singh, Orijit Sen, Shilpa Gupta, Sohrab Hura Furqan Faridi and Shaheen Ahmed.


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