Citing the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Government of India’s silence over the rising violence against Muslims in the country, designer Kunal Merchant has refused to make a table for the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi.
Merchant has emerged as one of those rare voices of dissent against Modi and his government’s “prejudiced, racist, and hateful” India, a Hyderabad-based daily Siasat reported.
As per the report, screenshots that Kunal Merchant shared on his Instagram stories (which disappear after 24 hours) on Friday showed that he received an email from Vivek Kumar, private secretary to PM Modi on April 12, informing Merchant that he has been chosen to “design and build a permanent installation/exclusive table for exclusive use by the Prime Minister”.
The supposed desk is for Modi and for his successors, the email mentioned.
His response and dissent come just a few days after India saw bloody and orchestrated Hindutva rallies on Ram Navami, wherein goons and crowds indulged in anti-Muslim violence in Madhya Pradesh, Goa, Gujarat, Karnataka, and other places.
In his response to Kumar’s email, Merchant is clear as to why he declined the chance to make a table for Modi. While thanking the private secretary for choosing him and his practice, the designer said that is respectfully declining the opportunity. Kunal Merchant also emphasized that he believes in a secular, plural, tolerant and civilisational force that has a 7,000-year-old ”record of accepting” ’outsiders’ (a term BJP used to talk of Indian Muslim kings in history), the report said.
“While 20% of my fellow citizens live below the poverty line and while 22% of my fellow citizens who are Muslims live in marginalised conditions created by your government and its policies, I find it morally and unethically feasible to design and create a desk for the head of our government on which laws and policies will be signed to further this agenda of segregation and deprivation of minorities,” said Kunal’s email to Modi’s private secretary.
He reminded Vivek Kumar that history ”treats the supporters, suppliers, and propagators of Nazis as Nazis themselves.
“I do not want to have anything to do with, nor contribute to this regime lest history associates me with your racism, fascism, reductive and binary thinking as well as your thuggery. As a designer I seek to inspire and uplift the quality of life of the people around me,” asserted Kunal Merchant, in his damning responses to the Prime Minister.
The report said Merchant stated that had he taken up the job, he would have made the desk from timber and raw materials from all over India, to symbolise our unity, fraternity, and diversity. He also informed the PM’s office that he is “first and foremost a Gandhian” and that he believes in the true spirit of Ahimsa (non-violence), adding that he has learned firsthand from people who have walked with Mahatma Gandhi the real meaning of ’Swaraj’.
Stating that it’s no secret he is “fundamentally opposed to the politics and policies of our current Prime Minister and the ruling party”, Kunal Merchant wrote that the India BJP is trying to make had “never existed in the past” and that it has no basis in the present, and has no “warrant in the future”. “Your India is prejudiced, hateful, exclusive, and racist,” the report quoted him further adding.