Delhi University Students’ Union recently demanded an immediate ban on the annual street production of Ankur, the theatre society of Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Khalsa College. The student representative body of Delhi University issued a notice to the college authorities on 17th March 2015 stating that ‘Welcome to the Machine’ is an anti-Hindu play and gives out a wrong message to the society.
Ashutosh Mathur, the Joint Secretary of DUSU wrote the letter that was addressed to the principal of SGTB Khalsa. In conversation with DU Beat, Ashutosh Mathur said, “The complaint has not been filed as a result of my personal opinions or those of other DUSU members. The action has been taken after regular complaints from the students of Delhi University after its performance at Ramjas College recently.”
The issues taken in consideration include portrayal of religious forces that assert power by means of tradition, culture and education. The play also talks about communal riots which are a result of manipulations within the boundaries of religion and its associated faith. “The play hurts the sentiments of Hindus and holds them responsible for societal problems that it addresses in form of street theatre”, Mathur said.
The incident has caught the attention of various groups and NGOs preaching freedom of expression within a few hours of the letter being released on social media. There has been constant criticism against DUSU as independent theatre groups around Delhi have also expressed their views on the action taken by them. Sidhaant Sharma, founder member of Khanabadosh was quoted as saying, “The whole idea of banning plays shows the gutless attitude of elected representatives. I am sure that none of the DUSU members have watched or understood the play and its real message. We urge them to go and watch the play. These bans won’t bog anyone down.”
Guneet Singh Nanda, the President of Ankur says, “The allegation levied on the play are false and it doesn’t portray anything related to the Hindus. We are in the process of meetings with the Principal and authorities. We shall soon announce the date of our public performance soon and we shall invite everyone who supports DUSU to come and watch the play with us.”
Ankur, the theatre society also has given out a statement on its official Facebook Page expressing their discomfort on reading the irresponsible use of language in the letter sent by DUSU. The notice by DUSU terms this production as ‘fake drama’ and demands its immediate ban. Prabhjot Singh, the ex-president of Ankur says, “This is not just about Welcome to the Machine. It is an attack on every Delhi University play. Nobody has the right to tell us on what play to make. This is a black day in the history of DU theatre circuit.”
Theatre fraternity in and around Delhi University has extended their support to Ankur. Shivangi Tewari, member of Miranda House’s dramatics society remarks, “Nukkad natak as an art form spreads the message of freedom, equality and democracy. The play has managed to raise the voice against our leaders and the scenario of the country we live in. I firmly support Ankur.”
Other bodies like Delhi University Teachers’ Association also feel that the ban is highly condemnable and DUSU should focus on other issues related to students, which hold more value in the education system.