Sundeep Bhutoria

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Sunday, January 20, 2013

Artistes in Pink City react on border incident

I arrived in Jaipur on Tuesday evening. The city is gearing up for the Jaipur Literature Festival 2013 (JLF 2013). I find that, since the past few years, January has become synonymous with being in Jaipur. The JLF, polo season, heritage festivals and numerous other events all take place in January.
This year there is also the theatre festival called Bharat Rang Mahotsav (Jan 7 - 17) being hosted in the city by the Ministry of Cultural Affairs and the National School of Drama (NSD). This is the 15th such National festival organized by them in India.
I wanted to attend the January 16th evening play called Kaun Hai Yes Gustakh. Ajoka, a theatre group from Lahore, was to stage this play on Saadat Hasan Manto by Pakistani playwright Shahid Nadeem who is known for his commitment to human rights. The play was directed by Madeeha Gauhar.
I heard in the afternoon that the play would not be staged as the authorities had banned it following protests from a group of people in the wake of the recent India-Pakistan border incident. All 24 artistes who were supposed to perform were asked to go back without staging the play.
I was hardly surprised by this move. Last year also the state government acted similarly when Salman Rushdie, who was to attend the Jaipur LitFest, was stopped. Later in the day, when I heard the details, I found the whole affair quite unusual.
Normally, a local government bans such programmes when it anticipates there is going to be a law and order problems. Shiv Sainiks protesting against the play from Pakistan also doesn’t come as a surprise. But what really surprised me was the fact that the entire theatre fraternity was opposed to the staging of this play just because it was from Pakistan.
From the senior most artiste of Jaipur Theatre, Sartaj Mathur, to the youngest ones, all wore black badges or bands to protest its staging. “By letting this show happen, we would have made a spectacle of ourselves. We should not encourage them any more,” he said.
The state government had no option but to ban it especially when a Chintan Shivir is scheduled to take place soon for which the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, and Congress Party chief, Sonia Gandhi, are to arrive soon along with 13 Congress chief ministers and almost the entire cabinet ministers of Congress.
The Pakistani director of the play, Madeeha Gauhar said, “We are all artistes. We carry with us the message of peace and harmony. I am really upset.”
In such situations as these, the artistes, most of whom who have nothing to do with politics, always countenance a show of solidarity with their fellow artistes from around the world. But this time the gruesome border incident of mutilating the body of Indian army man by Pakistan army personnel, has hurt sentiments and created deep schisms that have not spared the theatre artistes.
It seems the artistes have sent across a clear message to Pakistan that “….enough is enough”.
ess bee

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