Indian girls dancing and Ashok Swain
Indian children dancing (left), Professor Ashok Swain (right). Credit: Rajesh Kumar Singh (left), Uppsala University (right)

Professor: Stockholm India festival should speak up on Modi

Festival organiser: This is a cultural event, not a political one.
7:11 min

Stockholm is gearing up for its annual cultural festival – this year, with an Indian twist. But Ashok Swain, a professor at Uppsala University, is critical of the festival's cooperation with the Indian Embassy.

This year's festival kicks off on August 15, which coincides with the celebration of 70 years of Indian independence from British rule.

"We have only different themes in past years, but only within Europe," said Philippa Staffas, project manager of the festival's Indian theme. "India has a broad culture so we want to give some bits and pieces ... music, dance, comedy, food, lectures, film."

The Indian Embassy is one of many partners of the festival. It will be running a 4-hour event called Namaste Stockholm, featuring dance and music performances.

Indian ambassador Monika Kaphil Mohta will be on stage as Karin Wanngård, mayor of Stockholm, inaugurates the festival.

Though welcoming the Indian theme and participation of the Embassy, Ashok Swain, Professor of Peace and Conflict Research at Uppsala University, argued the festival should avoid legitimising the Indian government under the Hindu nationalist BJP party.

He said that the BJP government has launched a number of attacks on Muslims and other minorities.

India is moving from a country of many people, many ideas and many nations, to a country of one religion, one culture, one language and one leader ... Stockholm should communicate that if India wants our friendship and cooperation, they must ensure that each and every citizen gets the human rights they deserve.

Philippa Staffas said that the festival organisers are completely in charge of the programme, and that no-one is being silenced.

"Our point is to show culture. We’re not into politicians. We’re doing this programme entirely on our own, no matter who we collaborate with," she told Radio Sweden.

The festival organiser is expecting a big turnout – and hopes that people will see "something they don't expect". She specifically invites Stockholm's Indian community to take part.

The festival runs Tuesday through Friday next week.

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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