A play performed by the students at Central University of Haryana in Mahendragarh on Wednesday, which had a scene portraying armymen committing rape, invited demonstrations from various sections of the society on Thursday. The Bharatiya Janata Party’s student wing Akhi Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), ex-servicemen and some villagers led protests in the district and burnt effigy of the university vice-chancellor, demanding FIR against those involved in the play.
According to the English literature department, the students performed ‘Draupadi’ play written by eminent writer Mahasweta Devi, who passed away in July this year, in her memory. The play, set in 1970s in tribal areas, shows the army men questioning the protagonist to reveal the names of those involved in a tribal movement in a one-minute scene. When she denies, the army men rape her to press for the information.
“The half-minute scene has overshadowed the entire meaning of the play due to some students’ political inclinations,” said Sanjeev Kumar, head of the department. “As literature students, if they’re not even allowed to perform plays written by legends like Mahasweta Devi, then I think there’s some serious problem of freedom of expression in our country,” he said.
Sources told HT the real problem occurred after the play got finished. In her speech at the end of the play, a professor at the department gave NCRB (National Crime Record Bureau) data trying to prove the atrocities against the tribal women by the Indian army. “The play was in English, so most of the audience didn’t even understand. But the speech by the professor was in Hindi, which triggered protests,” an eyewitness told HT.
The demonstrators on Thursday gave a two-day ultimatum to the V-C RC Kuhad to act against the guilty.
Kuhad said, “I have taken cognisance of the matter. But the protests are highly politically motivated. We have held talks with most of the protesting army men and pacified them, by explaining the entire viewpoint of the play. Still, I have constituted a three-member committee under the surveillance of two literature experts and an army man to suggest if there was any wrong act committed. The faculty, too, has been asked to give their explanation,” he said.