Shri Guru Teg Bahadur Khalsa (SGTB) College put its street play competition on hold on Friday fearing backlash from the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), which had problems with the content of some of the plays.
Officials of SGTB Khalsa College said the decision of putting off the competition was taken keeping in mind the safety of students.
“These street plays used to be an integral part of the college fest. But this time, we are going to do without them. We did not want to risk the lives of our students,” said Saikat Ghosh, staff advisor of Khalsa theatre society.
The members of theatre societies of different Delhi University colleges, in fact, said that surveillance on creative art had increased of late and they had to be careful when writing the script and deciding a venue to stage their plays.
Some of the plays which were scheduled to be staged on Thursday were “Sare Jahan Se achha” by Hindu College, “Accidental Death of an anarchist” by Kirori Mal College, “Main Kashmir, aur aap? Main Manipur” by Gargi College and Sawal toh Uthega by Shri Guru Gobind Singh College of Commerce, among others. Students said most of the plays scheduled for Thursday were critical on the discourse of nationalism and were critical of the government and hence the ABVP had trained their lens on them.
One of the members of a theatre society of a popular college said, “These days when we write and design our plays, we have to be extra careful. It feels like we are being constantly watched. A few people are trying to kill our creative freedom.”
In 2015, the then Delhi University Students Union (DUSU) — headed by the ABVP — had demanded the banning of Khalsa College theatre group Ankur for staging a play, which they considered anti-Hindu. The same year, the screening of a film “Muzaffarnagar Baki Hai” at Kirori Mal College was disrupted.
Afreen Sen Chatterjee, president of The Players, Kirori Mal College’s theatre society, said, “It is not like plays with such content were not being staged earlier. But now, it is about the people who are viewing them. So the interference and protest against such plays has definitely increased.”
Nimisha Rajendra, president of Kshitij, a street-play society of Gargi College, said so far they had not faced any problems. But that, she believes, is only because they are careful in choosing the place where they perform.
“Our play talks about Irom Sharmila, Burhan Wani and different modes to azaadi. We will be targeted if we perform this in front of the public in today’s time. It is a huge concern for us. Even the organisers at JNU told us to remove the mention of Burhan Wani because they did not want any trouble,” said Rajendra.
ABVP members, on the other hand said, SGTB Khalsa College had sought the student group’s opinion about their street play competition. “I told them that if the content of the play has anything anti-national, we will not be able to promise their safety. And if we come to know about any anti-national activity in DU, we will protest and fight for our country,” said Amit Tanwar, DUSU president.
Students, however, said that they will not staging such plays. “We will fight back and continue to do what we are doing,” said Afreen Sen Chatterjee of Kirori Mal College.