Indo-Canadian Sikh poet Rupi Kaur, 31, has declined an invitation to a Diwali event hosted by the U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration, citing concerns over the administration’s response to the situation in Gaza. Kaur expressed her refusal in a statement posted on X on Monday, where she stated, “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, the author of “Milk and Honey,” expressed surprise that the administration found it acceptable to celebrate Diwali while she believes their support for the ongoing conflict in Gaza contradicts the principles of the holiday. She pointed out that the Gaza Ministry of Health reported a Palestinian death toll exceeding 10,000, including 4,104 children, with no ceasefire in sight.
Furthermore, Kaur highlighted the dire situation in Gaza, where 16 of the 35 hospitals are running low on fuel supplies and have had to suspend operations. The United Nations has reported that more than 1.5 million people, over half of Gaza’s population, have been displaced since the conflict began in early October.
Kaur urged other South Asians in the U.S. to take a similar stand and hold the Biden administration accountable for its actions in the face of the escalating civilian death toll. She emphasized, “As a Sikh woman, I will not allow my likeness to be used in whitewashing this administration’s actions.”
She added that it is a moral imperative to call for justice when a government’s actions dehumanize people anywhere in the world.
The Diwali event is being hosted by America’s Indian-origin Vice President Kamala Harris. Kaur explained that among Sikhs, Diwali is celebrated as Bandi Chhor Divas (Day of Liberation), which commemorates Guru Hargobind Sahib, the sixth guru, who helped free 52 political prisoners from unjust imprisonment by a Mughal emperor.
Kaur further emphasized the need to reflect on the fight for freedom against oppression and criticized the U.S. government for funding the bombardment of Gaza and justifying what she referred to as a genocide against Palestinians.
She encouraged her followers to sign petitions, join boycotts, and attend protests in support of a ceasefire. Rupi Kaur’s literary works, including “Milk and Honey,” have achieved remarkable success, selling over 11 million copies and being translated into more than 43 languages. “Milk and Honey” has even surpassed “Odyssey” by Homer as the best-selling poetry of all time. She has received recognition as the “writer of the decade” by the New Republic and has been featured on the Forbes 30 under 30 list. In 2022, Kaur released her fourth book, “Healing Through Word.”