February 28, 2021 4:46:40 am
The Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA) on Saturday cancelled its five-day theatre festival in Chhatarpur district of Madhya Pradesh citing the Covid-19 pandemic, even as the organisers told The Sunday Express that the move came after strong opposition from a group led by the Bajrang Dal over two of the plays scheduled to be enacted at the fest.
The group also wrote to the sub-divisional magistrate on February 22, opposing the two plays — ‘Jaat Hi Pucho Sadhu Ki’ and ‘Besharma Mev Jayate’ — and stating that their content has angered “the entire fraternity of culture and religious lovers”.
‘Jaat hi Pucho Sadhu Ki’ is a Hindi translation of Marathi play ‘Pahije Jatiche’, written by Padma Bhushan awardee Vijay Tendulkar. It was previously also performed at the Khajuraho festival and in Tikamgarh in MP.
In its letter, the opposing group demanded that the festival be stopped and permissions granted for it to be held in a public auditorium be withdrawn immediately. “If the administration fails to do so, the Bajrang Dal will be compelled to hold a furious protest, for which the district administration will be responsible,” the letter stated.
According to IPTA’s Chhatarpur district in-charge, Devendra Khushwaha, he first received a phone call on February 7 from a person who inquired about the plays in the line-up. “I told the gentleman that it is through public funding; that IPTA is organising it and anyone can buy tickets from us. But he objected to the two plays, despite not having watched them,” Khushwaha said.
IPTA general secretary Shivendra Shukla alleged that police did not assure protection to the artists or the festival despite having approached them. Chhatarpur Superintendent of Police Sachin Sharma dismissed the allegation and said the organisers cancelled the festival on their own.
According to Shukla, he also wrote to the SDM’s office seeking adequate police protection, but to no avail. “The SP asked us to sort out the issue with those opposing the programme without any assurance of protection,” Shukla alleged.
SP Sharma told The Sunday Express: “We had a meeting with the organisers and they were assured of police protection had they gone ahead. But they cancelled it on their own.”
Bajrang Dal’s Chhatarpur district in-charge, Surendra Shivhare, said they objected to the two plays as their titles gave away their content. He said the other three plays could be promoting anything. “We will continue to protest such programmes in the future too and if they are not stopped, we have our own system to handle it,” he said.
Chhatarpur’s District Collector was unavailable for a comment.
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