New York, November 7 (IANS) Indo-Canadian Sikh poet Rupi Kaur has declined an invitation for a Diwali event on Wednesday from US President Joe Biden's administration over its response to the situation in Gaza.
"I decline any invitation from an institution that supports the collective punishment of a trapped civilian population—50 per cent of whom are children," Kaur, 31, wrote in a statement posted on X on Monday.
"I'm surprised this administration finds it acceptable to celebrate Diwali, when their support of the current atrocities against Palestinians represent the exact opposite of what this holiday means to many of us," the author of "Milk and Honey" said.
Gaza’s Ministry of Health said on Monday that the Palestinian death toll has crossed 10,000, including 4,104 children, with no signs of a ceasefire in the besieged enclave.
In addition, 16 of Gaza’s 35 hospitals, running low on fuel supplies, have been forced to suspend operations, and according to the UN, more than 1.5 million people -- more than half of Gaza’s population -- have been displaced since Hamas launched its war against Israel on October 7.
Kaur implored other South Asians in the US to do the same and hold the Biden administration accountable in the wake of the spiralling civilian death toll.
"I implore my South Asian community to hold this administration accountable. As a Sikh woman, I will not allow my likeness to be used in whitewashing this administration's actions."
Kaur, who immigrated to Canada from Punjab at the age of four with her parents, said: "We must not be tokenized by their photo-ops. When a government's actions dehumanize people anywhere in the world, it is our moral imperative to call for justice."
The Diwali event is being hosted by America's Indian-origin Vice President Kamala Harris.
Among Sikhs, Diwali is celebrated as Bandi Chhor Divas (Day of Liberation), commemorating their sixth guru, Guru Hargobind Sahib, who helped free 52 fellow political prisoners from unjust imprisonment by a Mughal emperor.
"I have always used this day to reflect on what it means to fight for freedom against oppression. Today, the American government is not only funding the bombardment of Gaza, they continue to justify this genocide against Palestinians regardless of how many refugee camps, health facilities, and places of worship are blown to bits," Kaur wrote.
Kaur, whose work encompasses love, loss, trauma, healing, femininity, and migration, also urged her followers to sign petitions, join boycotts and attend protests in support of a ceasefire.
Her collections have sold over 11 million copies and have been translated into over 43 languages, with "Milk and Honey" surpassing Homer's "Odyssey" as the best-selling poetry of all time.
She was also regarded as "writer of the decade" by the New Republic and recognised on the Forbes 30 under 30 list.
In 2022, Kaur released her fourth book, "Healing Through Word".
Earlier this year, her X account (formerly Twitter) was withheld in India over the Khalistan issue.