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Rupi Kaur, a renowned Canadian poet, declined an invitation to the White House to attend a Diwali celebration on Wednesday, saying she is opposed to the Biden administration's policies in the Israel-Gaza war.
In a statement posted on social media Kaur, who was born in India, said she would not attend the holiday celebration, which will be hosted by Vice President Kamala Harris.
“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,” she wrote.
“I decline any invitation from an institution that supports the collective punishment of a trapped civilian population – 50 per cent of whom are children.”
Diwali, also known as the festival of lights, is a celebration of the victory of light, good and knowledge over darkness, evil, and ignorance.
The five-day festival is celebrated by Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and Newar Buddhists in India and around the world.
It includes bright decorations, the exchange of presents, music and dancing.
Kaur, 31, is a popular poet, illustrator and author of four books, including her latest, Healing Through Words.
Her work focuses on love, trauma, loss and healing. She also has a large social media presence, with 4.6 million followers on her Instagram account.
Kaur said called on the South Asian community to hold the Biden administration accountable.
“We cannot remain silent or agreeable just to get a seat at the table. It comes at too high a cost to human life,” she said.
“When a government’s actions dehumanise people anywhere in the world, it is our moral imperative to call for justice. Do not be afraid. Stand with the world and demand a humanitarian ceasefire.”
The statement comes amid rising international condemnation over the Palestinian death toll in the Gaza Strip, which has topped 10,500 – most of them women and children – according to a local tally.
Israel declared war on Hamas on October 7, after gunmen from the group attacked Israel, killing 1,400 people and taking about 240 hostages.
But the high death toll has fuelled questions as to the legitimacy and proportionality of the Israeli response.
Israel also cut off entry of water, food, medicine and fuel, leading to a humanitarian crisis in the besieged enclave that is home to 2.3 million Palestinians.
The administration of US President Joe Biden has been one of Israel's strongest supporters, pledging more military aid and opposing a general ceasefire in Gaza, saying it would only benefit Hamas, the group that Israel says it wants to eradicate.
Last year, Ms Harris, who is also of Indian descent, hosted a large Diwali celebration in her home, attended by prominent South Asian public figures.