The group said that it was against their principles and politics to be associated with an event which was being sponsored by the Ambani-owned Reliance.

JNU LGBT group pulls out of Reliance-sponsored play NGO says move smacks of sabotageImage source: Harmless Hugs/Facebook
news Tuesday, September 01, 2015 - 17:23

A play meant to sensitize people about the LGBTQ community has caused a rift between two groups supporting the very cause.  

A reading of Chetan Datar's play “Ek Madhav Baug” by actor Mona Ambegaonkar had been scheduled for Sunday evening at the Jawaharlal Nehru University campus only to be cancelled "at the last moment" following differences in opinions between two of the collaborators.

The reading of the play, which revolves about a mother who discovers her son is gay and how she comes to terms with it, had been planned in collaboration with three groups - Harmless Hugs, a LGBT youth collective in New Delhi, Dhanak, a Queer group in JNU and Humsafar Trust, a Mumbai-based NGO that promotes LGBT rights. 

Initially, all the groups had mutually agreed upon the venue in the JNU campus. However, when Dhanak came to know that Reliance was one of the sponsors of the event, it withdrew support from the event and the reading had to be shifted to another location.

The two groups have been blaming each other for miscommunication and the confusion that ensued.  

Dhanak has maintained that it was against their principles and politics to be associated with an event which was being sponsored by the Ambani-owned Reliance.

In a statement released on Facebook, Dhanak contends that though they did cancel the play at the last moment, "it was not really ‘last minute’ as after all our attempts of a dialogue were turned down reluctantly, we were forced to take a stand."

The group claims they were not informed about Reliance being a sponsor from Harmless Hugs and got to know about it quite later when the poster of the play was released. At this point, they had already agreed to host the programme.

“We want to make it clear here, that while we stand in political solidarity with other Queer groups, we can in no means show affinity to a corporate body whose entry into Queer support stems more from the mythical corporate social responsibility or the urge of promoting their brands,” the statement reads.

“We don’t see movements and issues in isolation and as mutually-exclusive categories. Therefore, we cannot, in any way, segregate corporate loot and exploitation from the oppression we encounter as Queer subjects… Hence for us, associating with Reliance was being disloyal to our politics and as said before- completely non-negotiable.”


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Harmless Hugs too has hit back at Dhanak stating they are just “a political youth collective” working towards a social cause.

Stating they were thankful for Reliance funding the programme, the group in a statement said, “Many of our members are employed by the corporate groups. We talk about LGBT friendly corporate offices, and sensitising the corporates about our needs; so when it comes to working for the community, can we not engage them in the process and expect them to be friendly? It is with this mindset that we went forward with the play by changing venues.”

The play which had been organized by the Humsafar Trust was funded by Reliance through Satyamev Jayate.


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Speaking to The News Minute, Pallav Patankar, Director, Programs at the Humsafar Trust termed the episode “unfortunate” and that their move “smacked of sabotage”. He said that since Reliance was the one funding the program, it was only obvious that they’d mention its name on the posters.

Countering Dhanak’s claim that they weren’t informed about the sponsors, Patankar says that while Humsafar was not directly involved in communicating with them, it feels that the responsibility also lied on the former’s part to find out details of the event they had agreed to host and that they should have made their policies clear beforehand as well.

“In case they were really interested in hosting the play reading and had a problem with Reliance funding it, they could have raised their own funds and gone ahead with the original schedule. But they weren’t even ready for that,” he asserts.  

He goes to question Dhanak’s stance of not willing to associate itself with Reliance.  

“Would none of them ever work in the corporate sector? If Reliance offered them a job in their CSR department, would they turn it down? What about people from the LGBTQ community working in corporate sectors? Are they persona non grata for JNU then?” asks Patankar.

The News Minute has reached out to Dhanak and is awaiting a response. The report will be updated as when Dhanak responds.

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