Ostracised for being Muslim and performing dance, 20-year-old Mansiya's story

Ostracised for being Muslim and performing dance, 20-year-old Mansiya's story
Ostracised for being Muslim and performing dance, 20-year-old Mansiya's story
Written by:

Haritha John | The News Minute | January 18, 2015 | 4.45 pm IST

Twenty-year-old Mansiya has paid a high price for doing what she loves. She and her sister were harassed at the time of her mother’s funeral simply because she and her sister loved to dance.

Recently, Mansiya visited the venue of the 55th Kerala State School Youth festival which kicked off on Thursday in Kozhikode. Three years ago, she was participating and giving Mohiniyattam performances at the festival, in which 1050 institutions participate.

The Kerala School Youth Festival, which has been described as the biggest event of its kind in Asia, is an annual event conducted by the state government of Kerala and features several art competitions for high school and higher secondary school students of the state. The festival has been a part of state’s tradition since 1956 where it has a role in preserving Kerala’s own cultural art forms.

Mansiya V.P is currently an under-graduate student at Manjeri NSS College. From 2005 to 2011 she had been a regular participant in the state school fests and had won prizes for her Mohiniyattom performances.

But her participation in the festival and cultural activities has been very tough for her and other Muslim girls. The participation of Muslim girls in the dance events at the fest is very less. Though the Muslims in the state are making much progress educationally, socially and economically, certain things remain forbidden in the community, such as a girls applying paint for a dance item.

Mansiya during Mohiniyattom performance

Mansiya and her sister Rubiya, who is also a dancer, hail from Malappuram had have borne the brunt of social pressure for indulging their passion for dance.

The most painful of these is her memory about her mother Amina’s death. Religious leaders had denied Amina’s cremation at the mosque cemetery that her daughters perform classical dance.

“It was 8 years ago. When my mother died we pleaded with everyone at mosque to conduct the burial, but they did not allow it, just because my sister and I dance. Then we had to get the burial done at my mother’s native place” Mansiya recalls.

Mansiya said that their only support were their parents. They had to face the wrath of relatives, friends and other locals for attending dance classes and performing it on stage.

“When we (Mansiya and Rubiya) walked on the road people used to abuse us and shout bad words. Some had even tried to attack us. My relatives and friends had told me that I will go to hell because I dance on stage” she said.

She says they had no Muslim friends at their school and that they had been neglected both at school and at the madrassa (religious learning centre). “At school I remember that both teachers and class mates used to neglect me. They neither talked nor maintained friendship. Still we are being neglected from public functions” she said, recalling the painful experience.

Manziya says that her family is still being excluded from public functions and events. But these objections were never stopped Mansiya and Rubiya in achieving their aim.

Mansiya had won the Kalathilakam, award given to best female performer, at Calicut University youth fest twice and Rubiya has a post graduate degree in Bharatanatyam dance from Chidambaram Annamalai University.

Mansiya is still taking dance lessons from her teacher Puthur Pramodh Das. She said with confidence that it is her supporters from different places gave her courage to continue.

“Now we have lots of support even from other districts, may be that is why they (locals and religious leaders) are not harming us. We even had death threats from them” she said

When asked about this taboo a moulvi at a mosque in Ernakulam told The News minute that Islam religion is against girls making a public appearance on stage once they have reached puberty. "Such appearances will create big issues," he said, requesting anonymity.

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