Over 600 theatre artistes on Thursday issued a joint statement appealing to citizens to “vote bigotry, hatred, and apathy out of power”. The 616 signatories of the statement include Amol Palekar, Anurag Kashyap, Dolly Thakore, Lillete Dubey, Naseeruddin Shah, Abhishek Majumdar, Anamika Haksar, Navtej Johar, MK Raina, Mahesh Dattani, Konkona Sen Sharma, Ratna Pathak Shah and Sanjna Kapoor.

The statement appealed to people to “vote against the BJP and its allies” and to vote for a secular, democratic and inclusive India. “Vote to empower the weakest, protect liberty, protect the environment, and foster scientific thinking,” it said. The statement was released in 12 languages.

The statement said the upcoming elections are the most critical in the history of independent India. It said the Bharatiya Janata Party, which came to power with the promise of development, gave a “free rein to Hindutva goons” to indulge in the politics of hate and violence. “The man who was portrayed as the saviour of the nation five years ago has destroyed the livelihoods of millions through his policies,” it said.

The artistes said “the very idea of India” was under threat today. “Today, song, dance, laughter is under threat,” their statement said. “Today, our beloved Constitution is under threat. The institutions that have to nurture argument, debate and dissent have been suffocated. To question, to call out lies, to speak the truth, is branded ‘anti-national’.”

They appealed to citizens to help safeguard the Constitution, India’s “syncretic, secular ethos” and to vote to “defeat the forces of darkness and barbarism”.

Filmmakers and writers too have issued similar statements, appealing to citizens to vote the BJP out of power and to vote out hate politics.