28, Nov 2022
The civil rights activist was speaking at the inaugural of a three-day conference of the Network of Artistic Theatre Activists Kerala being held in Thiruvananthapuram.
After 70 days of incarceration, civil rights activist Teesta Setalvad had received 2,700 letters with words of support. All political prisoners deserve such letters because of the sense of strength it gives, she said while inaugurating the three-day state conference of the Network of Artistic Theatre Activists Kerala (NATAK), in Thiruvananthapuram on November 25.
Requesting theatre artistes to be aware of the dangers of the Union government’s Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) that her organisation, Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), has been fighting against, Teesta said that happenings in Assam would affect every city and village. “While politically Muslims are the target, Assam shows us that every caste and community would be affected,” she said. Anyone who feels they will be safe because of caste and privilege will be proven wrong, Teesta said.
She said that India is currently experiencing proto-fascism, the stage that leads to fascism. “One of their tactics is fear, intimidation and violence for fragmenting us. They attack one section, and that section gets isolated. Then they attack another section,” she said and cited the examples of the writers, journalists and comics who have been attacked and not allowed to write or perform.
Teesta spoke against the silence being practised at a time people were violently and physically attacked. Even when she was jailed, the message she gave her team was to continue the work they were doing. After the initial shock they did that, she said. She ended the talk by mentioning her post from May 16, 2014 when the Modi government first came into power. She had quoted German playwright Bertolt Brecht — “Will there be singing in the dark times? Yes there will also be singing. About the dark times.”
What can art do at a time when every space in society has decayed, what debates can we engage through theatre, what are the responsibilities of a theatre person in these times – these are some of the questions that would be raised in the three-day conference, said a statement released by the organising committee of the conference.
On Sunday, November 27, the concluding day of the NATAK conference, actor and activist Prakash Raj will be speaking as the chief guest. Theatre performances will be held in the evenings as part of the event.
The original piece may be read here