A 38-year-old man was detained Saturday for allegedly “hurting religious sentiments” when he dressed up as Lord Shiva in a street play about price rise in Assam’s Nagaon district. He was released on Sunday, the police said.
Birinchi Bora, a social worker from Nagaon’s Nonoi village was detained based on police complaints filed by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM), among other groups, officers said. Following this, an FIR was registered at Nagaon’s Sadar police station and he was booked under section 295A (deliberate and malicious intention of outraging religious feelings), among other sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
Bora spent the night at the police station, but was on Sunday given a notice and released, said Nagaon superintendent of police Leena Doley. He has been asked to appear at the station on a later date. In Bora’s play, videos of which are now circulating on social media, Shiva and Parvati are seen riding a two-wheeler which runs out of fuel. An argument ensues as Shiva is unable to afford petrol because of the soaring price.
Now back home, Bora said the main objective of his street play was to “highlight price rise”. “There was no intention to hurt anyone’s beliefs. I used that analogy to make the point that the prices are so high that even the Almighty would be distressed if they were on earth,” he told The Indian Express. He added that it was not uncommon for gods to be portrayed in human form in Assamese plays. “However, now the situation is such that the right to free expression has been suppressed and you cannot express anything against the current regime,” he said.
Following the incident, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said that street plays on current issues are not “blasphemous.” “Nukad Natak on current issues is not blasphemous. Dressing up is not a crime unless offensive material is said. Appropriate order has been issued to @nagaonpolice,” he tweeted.
I agree with you @NavroopSingh_ that
Nukad Natak on current issues is not blasphemous. Dressing up is not a crime unless offensive material is said.
Appropriate order has been issued to @nagaonpolice https://t.co/Fivh7KMX5L
— Himanta Biswa Sarma (@himantabiswa) July 10, 2022Subscriber Only Stories
Meanwhile, the complainant, BJYM’s Anurom Bora, said, “While we do not have any problem with someone protesting against price rise, using god to express the protest was wrong.”