A group of people said to be associated with Bajrang Dal stopped the staging of a Kannada play mid-way at Anavatti in Sorab taluk of Shivamogga district in Karnataka on July 3. While the play was under way, a group of people raised slogans and went on the stage. They forced the actors to abandon the play and the audience to leave the venue.
Rangabelaku, a Shivamogga-based theatre group, was staging Jategiruvana Chandira, a play written by well-known writer and lyricist Jayant Kaikini at Veerashaiva Kalyana Mandira in Anavatti. Raghu Purappamane is the director of the play, which is a Kannada adaptation of Fiddler on the roof by Joseph Stein.
The programme was jointly organised by the Kannada Sahitya Parishat, Karnataka Janapada Parishat and Kannada Samskruthika Vedike units of Anavatti. The play began around 7.45 p.m. While it was under way, a group of Bajrang Dal activists led by Sridhar Achar told the organisers to stop the play, arguing that the play, featuring Muslim characters, should not have been allowed to be staged in the village.
Kotrappa G. Hiremagadi, a senior member of the Rangabelaku team, told The Hindu that, as he was getting prepared to enter the stage, he got calls from the organisers who wanted to talk to him about the pressure on them to stop the play. “A couple of minutes before my entry, a couple of people raised slogans and went up on stage, leaving all of us in shock and fear. We never anticipated such a development,” said Kotrappa Hiremagadi.
Sridhar Achar, a local Bajrang Dal activist, maintained that a play featuring Muslim characters would not be allowed to be staged in a marriage hall that belongs to Veerashaivas. He told the audience to leave the venue.
Kotrappa Hiremagadi said, “Our troupe has been staging plays for the last 15 years. We chose the play to spread communal harmony and peace in society. A team of 22 actors, including six women, had been to the village to stage the play.”
Sub-inspector Rajeev Reddy of Anavatti Police Station, received information about Sridhar Achar and a couple of other men disrupting the play. By the time police reached the venue, the play had been stopped, he said.
Many theatre lovers have expressed shock over the incident on social media platforms, and have demanded action against the culprits.
This article first appeared on thehindu.com