A play put up by a local theatre group in Karnataka’s Shivamogga was disrupted by members of the Bajrang Dal and other Hindutva organisations, as the play had a Muslim lead character and actors from the Muslim community. Rangabelaku, a Shivamogga-based theatre company, had staged a production of acclaimed writer and lyricist Jayanth Kaikini’s play ‘Jotegiruvanu Chandira’ at Anavatti village on Sunday, July 3, when the incident occured. ‘Jotegiruvanu Chandira’ is a Kannada adaptation of the famous English play ‘Fiddler On The Roof’ by Joseph Stein. Rangabelaku began the play around 7.45 pm at the Veerashaiva Kalyana Mandira. However, at around 9.30 pm, cries of ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ and ‘Jai Hind’ were heard from the audience. Members of the Bajrang Dal, led by one Sridhar Achar, began raising slogans against the play and began to pressure the organisers into cancelling it mid-way.
As per reports, the play showed a scene wherein a Muslim man was marrying a Hindu woman. The Bajrang Dal members, who did not know the play’s premise, took objection to such a scene being portrayed in the Veerashaiva Kalyana Mandira. Other reports state that the Bajrang Dal members took objection to the fact that the play had many Muslim characters, including the lead. The story of the play centres around a baker named Bademiya, who has three daughters and struggles to strike a balance with his religiously orthodox life.
A senior member of Rangabelaku told The Hindu that as he was about to enter the stage, the Bajrang Dal members began raising slogans and even climbed up onto the stage, bringing the performance to a halt. He added that the troupe has staged ‘Jotegiruvunu Chandira’ several times over the last 15 years, with an aim to “spread communal harmony and peace in society”.
The Anavatti police told TNM that by 10 pm on Sunday, Rangabelaku had wrapped up the play following the row. “There were about three-four Bajrang Dal members who attended the play. We received information that the play was disrupted, and by the time we got there at 10 pm, the issue was over. Later we gathered them and warned them against incendiary actions,” an inspector with the Anavatti station said.
Meanwhile, there have been calls for Jayanth Kaikini, the author of the adaptation, to speak out against the right-wing regarding the incident. “[This play] is the kind of cultural resistance that is required in the current crisis. And more importantly, writer Jayanth Kaikini should speak about the attack on his own play. His silence means he is endorsing the attack,” activist Sripad Bhat said.