A play on sexuality and gender, called Shiva, was to be showcased at Jagriti in Bengaluru on Saturday and Sunday. However, the show has been cancelled after several Hindutva groups sent a requisition to the police, saying the title of the play hurts religious sentiments.
Late on Friday night, a group of people from Vishwa Hindu Parishad, barged into the performance centre located in Whitefield and said they would not allow the show to be held.
The entire team was ready to perform the show, which portrays the struggles of a man and his gender identity. They were flabbergasted at the wild allegations levelled by the VHP’s members who claimed that the title of the play was offensive to Hindu sentiments.
Arundati Raja, the artistic director of the Jagriti rushed to the Whitefield Police Station. “Initially, it was a pro-Kannada organisation’s members who came and alleged that they would not allow the play to be showcased. Then the RSS members came and later the VHP members came to the police station. No matter how we tried to explain to them, they were set on one thing. ‘You can use my name for the play but not that of our god Shiva,’ one of the members told me,” Arundati told TNM.
After talks with the Hindutva groups failed, Arundati and her team, requested the police to provide protection so they could continue with the performances.
“The police were very cooperative. They said that in such a short notice, they could not provide so many police personnel. The play was to be screened on Saturday morning. The inspector told us to get permission from the police commissioner and then he would be able to provide protection. Since that is going to take some time, we decided to put the performance on hold,” Arundati added.
The play is about a boy named Shiva who develops an interest in dance but is also struggling with his gender identity. “It is the story of how he goes on to become a dancer and how he comes to terms with who he is. It is also about the way homosexuals are viewed in society and sends a strong message about gender and sexuality,” she adds.
According to DCP Whitefield Abdul Ahad, VHP member Girish Bharadwaj has submitted a requisition, stating that the title of the play was offensive.
“Since this is a sensitive issue, we just wanted to make sure that no untoward incident happens. If the play were to continue, then there was a possibility of some trouble,” DCP Abdul Ahad said.
“The said event named after Shiva, whom we worship as our devata and I am strongly from Hindu religion background. However, in the said event it is mentioned that ‘Shiva’ a performance on sexuality and gender, objectifying to sex and gender related activities,” VHP member Girish Bharadwaj’s letter to the DCP of Whitefield said.
Meanwhile, Jagriti issued a statement requesting the Home Minister Dr G Parameshwara to take cognisance of the issue and ensure that the artists’ freedom is protected.
“[The play] is a powerful piece of theatre that deals with discrimination of the LGBTQI community, at a time when the oppressive section 377 of the IPC has been overturned... We hope to gain support from the wider community and ensure that no untoward elements can disrupt any further shows... We request Honourable Chief Minister and Home Minister of Karnataka to take note of this and take a firm stand to ensure that the freedom of expression of artists and artistic spaces is not held to ransom,” the statement reads.