Over 100 filmmakers on Friday issued a joint statement appealing to people to not vote for the Bharatiya Janata Party in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. The filmmakers said the mandate should be used to elect a government that “respects the Constitution of India, protects our freedom of speech and expression, and refrains from all kinds of censorship”.

Documentary filmmakers Anand Patwardhan, Anjali Monteiro, film festival director Bina Paul, film critic C S Venkateswaran, Tamil director Vetrimaaran, and Malayalam director and producer Aashiq Abu are among the 103 signatories of the statement.

“Fascism threatens to strike us hard with all its might if we don’t choose wisely in the coming Lok Sabha election. Period,” the statement said. The appeal was uploaded on artistuniteiindia.com.

The filmmakers claimed the BJP and its allies have failed to keep election promises, have marginalised Dalits and Muslims, and blamed them for spreading hate campaigns through the internet and social media. “Any individual or institution that raises the slightest dissent is labelled ‘anti-national’,” they said. “Let us not forget that some of our eminent writers and media persons lost their lives because they dared to dissent.”

The statement said farmers have been “completely forgotten” and accused the BJP of making the country a “boardroom property of a handful of businessmen”. “Flawed economic policies that ended up as extreme disasters are covered up and made to look like successes,” the statement said. “All with the help of false propaganda and marketing blitz. This has helped them to create a false optimism in the country.”

The filmmakers said banning and censoring works of art has been the government’s way of keeping the people away from the truth.

The statement said BJP government’s strategy is to romanticise and exploit the armed forces, at the risk of “engaging the nation in an unnecessary war”. It claimed an “unrelenting onslaught” on cultural and scientific institutions”, appointing people with no relevance or experience as heads of these institutions, propagating unscientific and irrational beliefs even at international science seminars, “making us the laughing stock of the entire world”.

The statement said manipulation of statistics and history was one of the government’s “fond projects”. “Giving them one more term in power will be a grave blunder. It could well be the last nail in the coffin for the biggest democracy in the world.”

General Elections start from April 11 and will be held in seven phases. Votes will be counted May 23.