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Privilege 101

In the backdrop of India’s pro-democracy protests against the anti-Muslim citizenship law, grave human rights violations in Kashmir and massive police crackdown in north-east India and Muslim neighborhoods throughout the country, India witnessed a revolution led by women and students. The artwork points at Indians complicit in systemic, state-sponsored violence against minorities, privileged and dissociated from basic ground realities by donning their ‘apolitical’ badge when convenient. Instead, we decry this pretence of being ‘apolitical’ as  a conscious political decision. The politics of being apolitical is rooted in retaining wealth, power and control over minorities and the economically oppressed.

This illustration inspired by Dante's inferno is in solidarity with all those who have lost their lives to the state-sanctioned Delhi pogrom. 

I have grown up in Delhi in the 90’s surrounded by Mughal architecture,urdu calligraphy, Gulzar’s poetry and intricate embroidery and Mughalai food.

Last year (2019) the Indian government decided to launch two anti-people discriminatory laws that have had extreme effects on the way people behave and interact with Muslims, Urdu, Mughal cultural heritage altogether. Some microaggressions that have been made part of everyday life and some atrocities against an entire state of people are also part of the new normal.

The Indian diaspora still carries all the indian societal problems of the 80’s along with newer notions of celebrating a fascist regime. The popular hindi channels (lapdog media) don’t showcase the scale of atrocities the current government is unleashing upon anyone who refuses to honor a hindu nation.

Few years back one of the wonders of the world, The Taj Mahal was dropped from a tourism booklet. India has banned and jailed multiple artists, comedians in the past few months. History textbooks have been distorted to say things that didn’t happen and focus on an extremely singular (hindu) outlook to the Indian society. Urdu names of railway stations are being painted over with sanskrit. This kind of rabid cancellation and omission makes me worry that the free, unchecked India that I grew up in is forever lost.

We didn’t have bleeps on the television, we didn’t worry about what we were saying or eating. The heavy handed censorship is a threat to free expression and creatives all over the world. In the next few years, I only foresee things getting worse especially since they can put you in jail for sneezing in the wrong direction.

Lastly, I would like to mention a poem by the famous poet/lyricist Mr. Javed Akhtar says, “write what everyone is scared of saying, write” (“जो बात कहते डरते हैं सब तू वह बात लिख”- जावेद अख्तर साहब)

A male figure sitting in the dark with highlights of red lighting
Flower in red lighting
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