A play scheduled to be performed at the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival on Thursday has been dropped from the schedule following threats from a Hindu right-wing group.
The Hindu Janajagruti Samiti, whose tagline calls “for establishment of the Hindu nation”, posted threats on its website against the play Ali J, with a mention of plans to protest on Thursday at the venue.
The group also approached the police with a complaint, demanding that it be cancelled on the grounds that it was anti-national and spread communal hatred.
“The group came to us with a complaint,” confirmed RS Supale, senior inspector with the Colaba police station.
The police then got in touch with the Kala Ghoda Association, the organisers of the festival, to notify them of the issue.
“In the best interest of the festival, its audience as well as its security, we thought it best to cancel the programme after weighing all options,” said festival director Brinda Miller.
“Our primary responsibility is to see that the festival goes off without any incident or threat to the people who come here,” added Maneck Davar, chairperson of the Kala Ghoda Association.
Produced by Bangalore-based theatre group Evam, Ali J has as its protagonist a Muslim man who is in prison for a crime he may or may not have committed, and makes oblique references to the life of Muhammad Ali Jinnah.
“The play is a take on outsider identity and takes a moderate, Gandhian perspective,” said Karthik Kumar, director of the play. “We had earlier received a memorandum from the Samiti with their objections, however they haven’t seen the play.”
The theatre group will now release a recorded performance, on YouTube, at 5.30pm, when the play was scheduled to be performed. It will likely remain online for a week.
“They can prevent 100 people from watching at the venue, but 10,000 people can watch it online,” said Kumar.
AGAINST ALI J
* The right-wing Hindu Janajagruti Samiti posted threats on its website against the play Ali J on Wednesday and then approached the police to demand that it not be staged.
* “In the best interests of the festival, its audience as well as its security, we decided to cancel the staging of the play,” said festival director Brinda Miller.
* Theatre group Evam, which was set to stage the play at 5.30 pm on Thursday, will now release a recorded performance on YouTube at that time.
* “They can prevent 100 people from watching at the venue, but 10,000 people can watch it online,” said director of the play Karthik Kumar.