Artistic freedom vs sacrilege at IIT Bombay; students fined for staging play | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times
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Artistic freedom vs sacrilege at IIT Bombay; students fined for staging play

Jun 20, 2024 09:09 AM IST

IIT Bombay imposed fine on students for controversial play 'Raahovan' that sparked debate on artistic freedom vs religious sensibilities

IIT Bombay has come down with a heavy hand on eight students who staged a play called ‘Raahovan’ at the institute’s Performing Arts Festival on March 31. The play had raised the hackles of a group of students, who claimed that it hurt their religious sentiments.

A group of IIT students registered a formal complaint with the institute, saying that the play included derogatory references to Hindu beliefs
A group of IIT students registered a formal complaint with the institute, saying that the play included derogatory references to Hindu beliefs

IIT-B took up the issue in a disciplinary action committee (DAC) meeting held on May 8 and informed all the students about the action to be taken on June 4. The institute has imposed a fine of 1.20 lakh each on four students who will graduate from the institute this July. According to sources, the four other students, who are undergraduates, have been asked to pay a fine of 40,000 each and have also been ordered to vacate their hostel accommodation.

Videos of ‘Raavohan’ had quickly circulated on social media, igniting a debate on artistic freedom versus religious sensibilities. In the play, a ‘feminist’ interpretation of the Ramayana, character names were changed. However, a controversy ensued, as some viewers deemed the play offensive and disrespectful to religious sentiments.

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A group of IIT students registered a formal complaint with the institute, saying that the play included derogatory references to Hindu beliefs, portrayed Ram as a ‘devil’ and had the actors playing the roles of Sita, Ram and Laxman using inappropriate language and gestures.

A copy of a letter sent to a student was published on social media platform X by a verified user named ‘IIT B for Bharat’, which is run by an IIT students’ community. The post on X welcomed the disciplinary measures taken against those involved in ‘Raahovan’.

“We condemn the misuse of academic freedom to mock Lord Ram, Mata Sita, and Lord Laxman,” read the post. It urged the administration to establish guidelines to prevent any religion from being ridiculed under the garb of freedom of expression on campus. The students’ group also demanded an apology from the IIT-B administration.

According to sources, the students who have been penalised by the institute requested IIT’s dean of students affairs to allow them to continue living in the hostel, but the institute chose to stick to the committee’s recommendations.

When HT contacted IIT’s public relations officer, he refused to comment.

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