Screenshot from the video snippet of the skit, showing performers on stage
Screenshot from the video snippet of the skit, showing performers on stage

Bengaluru students petition against casteist college skit, demand apology

The petitioners responded to TNM that a few seemingly subversive dialogues, in the end, do not justify the casteist humour, while the performers insist that nothing as such was intended.

A comic skit with casteist overtones and derogatory references to BR Ambedkar is at the centre of a growing controversy after a group of college students in Bengaluru started an online petition calling it out. The petition, published on Jhatkaa.org, says that the college contingent from Jain University’s Centre for Management Studies (CMS) staged an "incredibly casteist and insensitive" skit at the event. The petitioners, who wish to remain anonymous, approached the organisers citing that the skit normalised caste discrimination in the name of humour, only to be dismissed. 

The skit was enacted by ‘The Delroys Boys’, the theatre group from CMS, as part of ‘Mad-Ads’, a segment at the fest where participants are to advertise imaginary products along the lines of humor along with playfully making fun of other colleges participating in the same. “The skit they performed showcased a man from a lowered caste background trying to date an upper-caste woman. The makers turned BR Ambedkar into ‘Beer Ambedkar’ and used several other problematic phrases like ‘Why be Dalit when you can be D-Lit’, to supposedly spark humour,” one of the petitioners told TNM. 

“It is unacceptable that the script for the performance went through multiple rounds of approval before being enacted on stage. The same insensitive script was enacted on February 5 by the same contingent at another college fest, sponsored by Under25 in Bengaluru,” reads the petition. Meanwhile, as outrage against the play grew online, a complaint was filed on Thursday, February 9, before the Superindentent of Police, Maharashtra, by Aakshay Bansode, State Member of the Vanchit Bahujan Yuva Aaghadi, under Section X(3) of the SC/ST Act, as well as Sections 153, 153A, 295, 499, 500, 503, 504, 506 and 34 of the Indian Penal Code. The complainant urges the police to treat the complaint as an FIR and take necessary action against the performers and the university authorities.

One of the petitioners, a person who wishes to maintain anonymity, told TNM,“They have performed the skit at three different venues now. When we watched the skit here in Bengaluru, we immediately raised complaints, but the organisers felt the skit was in good humour.” Dhrstadyumn, Senior Engagements Associate at Jhatkaa.org told TNM, “They have a 20-30 second non-lesson lesson at the end of it but a few seemingly  subversive dialogues, in the end, do not justify the casteist humour intended to tickle upper cast funny bone, that appear in a good number of scenes in the performance.”

Meanwhile, under the reel posted on Jhatkaa’s Instagram page featuring some of the controversial snippets of casteist humour from the skit, a few users have argued that towards the end, the skit tries to subvert casteism and that it is not fair to make judgment solely based on these snippets. Among these is a comment from the handle ‘The Delroys Boys’, which says that the skit was conceived as a satire and that they are disappointed with the petitioners’ attempt at “ill-informed media sensationalism”. They mentioned the dialogues from the climax of the skit where the marginalised protagonist wins over his harassers to emphasise that the skit was not meant to be discriminatory.

The petitioners responded to TNM that a few seemingly subversive dialogues, in the end, do not justify the casteist humour intended to tickle savarna funny bones, that appear in a good number of scenes in the performance. “The petitioners find the messaging inherently problematic and triggering. The videos are there on multiple platforms as well,” Dhrstadyumn added. The anonymous petitioner said that there has been online harassment following the events, including humiliating members among the petitioners. When asked whether any of the petitioners are considering legal action for the harassment, the anonymous petitioner said that at this point, they only want a public apology from Jain University CMS, and Under25, the sponsors of the college event at which the skit was performed.

TNM reached out to 'The Delroys Boys' and they responded with an apology. "We as a team want to say sorry to everyone that we have spoken bad about, we genuinely apologise for our mistake. Our intention was to bring in a social message but this turned out to be unaccepted," they wrote. They have also posted a public apology on their Instagram page.

This story has been updated to include the response of ‘The Delroys Boys’.

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