‘Anti-Hindu’ note throws state annual drama contest off stage
The two plays – ‘Vrundavan’ and ‘Tere mere sapne’ -- are penned by playwright Rafik Muzawar. They were among 13 one-act plays presented in Chandrapur. It’s been five weeks since they were staged and the results have not been declared as the cultural department is awaiting an intervention from higher ups in the state government
Mumbai: In a break from tradition, the state cultural affairs department has decided to hold back the results of one of the chapters of its annual drama competition, held in Chandrapur, in November. The decision was taken following a complaint by an office bearer of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) who claimed two plays presented in the contest expressed “anti-Hindu” views.
The first round of the contest is held in 21 centers. One of two winning plays from each center then compete in the final round. Incidentally, one of the “objectionable” plays received applause when it was staged in Solapur.
The two plays – ‘Vrindavan’ and ‘Tere mere sapne’ -- are penned by playwright Rafik Muzawar. They were among 13 one-act plays presented in Chandrapur. It’s been five weeks since they were staged and the results have not been declared as the cultural department is awaiting an intervention from higher ups in the state government.
Significantly, state’s cultural affairs minister and a senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader, Sudhir Mungantiwar, hails from Chandrapur.
Shailesh Dindewar, district convenor of ABVP, made the complaint, as he felt “the works showed Hindus in a poor light”.
“One of the plays shows women as victims of sexual exploitation at the hands of politicians in an old age home in Vrindavan, which is a holy place. The other play depicts an auto driver as a Good Samaritan who saves a Hindu girl from rioters after her Hindu neighbours failed to protect her. This is a deliberate attempt to paint Hindu religion in a bad light,” said Dindewar, uncaring of the fact that before they were staged the plays had passed the scrutiny of the censor board.
Dindewar said he had written to the censor board as well asking it to “reconsider the certificate given to them for the public performance”. “I have requested them to see if the plays sanctioned 10 years ago are fit to be performed today and if the references in them are correct,” he added.
Muzawar said, the plays are an attempt to showcase social harmony, and that both works have garnered much applause in the past.
“The depiction of the conditions in the ashramshala in Vrindavan is realistic and factual. It does not speak about any religion; this is the reality of old age homes,” said the playwright. “‘Tere mere sapne’ is the story of a girl who is saved by a Muslim auto driver who appears on the stage only for a couple of minutes. It has the message of social harmony.”
‘Vrindavan’ won a state award for storytelling in 2015 at the hands of the then cultural minister, Vinod Tawde, a BJP leader. ‘Tere mere sapne,’ which was presented at Solapur in one of the preliminary rounds, was ranked in the second place. Both plays have been performed at state-level competitions over the years.
However, following the complaint, results of the Chandrapur center have been put on hold, while the other centres have made their submissions.
“Even the three-member jury panel was divided on the verdict, with one of them sounding a note of dissent,” said an official from the directorate of cultural affairs, underscoring that it is looking to the state cultural department “to guide” them.
This has angered the opposition, with the Congress slamming the state government on an “attack on freedom of expression”. Maharashtra Congress general secretary, Sachin Sawant, said, “The power run on RSS agenda is leading to enormous social, political and cultural loss in the country. The independence of the art sector is at stake, given this fascist and divisive line of thought. They are depicting Hindu religion wrongly.”
Vibhishan Chavare, director, cultural affairs, told the reporters, “The results have been put on hold for technical reasons. They will be declared soon.”