Whoever knew that performing a play in college in India could turn into a perilous activity.
The Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the student-wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), has targeted the Central University of Haryana (CUH) for letting its teachers and students perform renowned Bengali writer Mahasweta Devi's famous play, Draupadi, reports The Wire.
The play, which has a scene portraying army men committing rape, has led to protests. Calling the play anti-national, ABVP protesters have burnt effigies of the university vice-chancellor, filed a police complaint against the participants, and demanded that they be booked for sedition.
Mahasweta Devi's Draupadi tells the story of Dopdi Mejhen, a tribal woman 'encountered' by Special Forces. Set in the 1970s, the play documents the Adivasi resistance against zamindari exploitation.
The play was staged on 21 September as a part of a day-long programme organised by the university's English and foreign languages department in memory of Mahasweta Devi, who died recently.
Some ABVP activists recorded it and circulated it among their supporters, which included members of the RSS, BJP and Bajrang Dal. Now, the ABVP activists have mobilised army men from nearby villages and are staging protests against the university.
The university, which had given permission for the play to be performed, has now constituted a six-member enquiry committee to look into the matter.
One of the organisers, an assistant professor in the English department, told The Wire that it is a "planned campaign".
"We were rehearsing for the play for the last one month," she said. "The VC, the head of department and most students knew about the contents of the play. No one objected to it. And suddenly we find that sentiments of a section of students were hurt! ABVP students constantly guard the university gates."
In an open letter, that was posted on the CUH Media Facebook page, a student wrote:
"As students, are we not allowed to have the freedom of expression in an academic institution? Are we not allowed to state factual statements obtained from authentic sources? Are we not allowed the freedom to stage plays which stimulate the academic curiosity of the students to initiate discussions on social issues? If issues of this nature are being politicised, how will a Central University which is supposed to be a research oriented institution, foster research studies towards other such burning issues?"
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