A day after the social media handle of the National School of Drama (NSD) carried a post on Karva Chauth, hundreds of artistes, writers, academics, cultural workers, alumni and former faculty members of the institute have issued a statement objecting to this display of “religious images and iconography”.
On Monday, the statement, which carried 272 signatures, was sent to the office of NSD Chairman Paresh Rawal and Acting Director Dinesh Khanna. By Tuesday evening, the online campaign had attracted more than 400 signatures.
“NSD has people from different religions and regional areas of the country. Why are we catering to one kind of religious viewpoint? We can use the official handles to talk about playwriting, poetry, music, actors and directors from different regions who represent the whole country. The NSD is a place of education and not for the dissemination of religious belief systems of any type,” said Anamika Haksar, an alumnus as well as teacher at NSD.
She pointed out that the Facebook page of NSD also contains a post on the Prime Minister’s e-auction of mementos, which violates the institute’s founding ethos of being autonomous of any government interference.
NSD’s Instagram handle is dedicated to posts on shows, important announcements and photos of visiting artistes and dignitaries as well as greetings on Independence Day and Gandhi Jayanti. In October, however, the handle began celebrating Navratri by posting about deities such as Ma Shaelpuri, Ma Brahmcharini and Ma Chandraganta, among others. On October 19, there was a post on Eid-e-Milad-un-Nabi.
“It is wrong for the National School of Drama to be putting out these posts on social media from their official handle. Why should a national institute that is meant to promote theatre education be putting out posts for religious festivals?” asked Sudhanva Deshpande of the Jan Natya Manch.
The signatories include former Director of NSD Anuradha Kapur, senior practitioner MK Raina, alumni such as Aniruddha Khutwad, faculty members KS Rajendran and other eminent artists such as Abhishek Majumdar.
“The dissemination of religious messages, imagery and iconography of any kind by a public, state-run institution goes against the remit of such institutions. We bring this to the notice of the authorities at NSD, and demand that this be stopped immediately,” read the letter.
NSD has not replied to the letter.
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