October 25, 2015

India: Shiv Sena activists disrupt play of Pakistani actors in Gurgaon

The Times of India

'Sena men' disrupt Pakistani play in Gurgaon

Sanjay Yadav,TNN | Oct 25, 2015, 02.26 AM IST

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GURGAON: A sizeable audience had gathered on Saturday evening to watch a Pakistani play, 'Baanjh', but what unfolded wasn't the kind of drama anyone had expected.

A group of 10 men claiming to be Shiv Sainiks stormed the open-air theatre and stopped the play, which also had Pakistani performers, midway. Shouting 'Hindustan zindabad, Pakistan murdabad', they marched on to the stage and threw away a Pakistani flag that was being used as a prop.

As the stunned audience looked on, the hoodlums demanded to know from the organizers why Pakistani artistes had been invited. The situation was aggravated by the absence of cops -two policemen had been posted for the play and they were nowhere to be seen when the stage was invaded, organizers said. The logic of having just two cops at the venue in Sector 29 was also confounding, especially in the light of Sena workers storming the Boffice in Mumbai to protest against a meeting on resumption of cricketing ties with Pakistan, and throwing black ink on Sudheendra Kulkarni for agreeing to launch a book written by a former Pakistani foreign minister.

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The Municipal Corporation of Gurgaon was the organizer of the cultural event of which this play was a part and the police, organizers said, had been informed in advance.

'Baanjh', the play by Maas Foundation, an internationally acclaimed theatre group from Lahore, was disrupted for around 10 minutes. But to their credit, the organizers quickly managed to bring the situation under control.

"These men came in and started shouting 'Hindustan zindabad, Pakistan murdabad'," said Vishav Deepak Trikha, consultant (art and culture), MCG. "The play was disrupted for about 10 minutes, but it took us hardly 1-2 minutes to quieten the protesters down. They asked us, 'Why did you invite theatre artistes from Pakistan?' But they were only shouting slogans and didn't do any damage."

The play, being staged at the Sector 29 venue, resumed after that. It started at 8pm and the disruption happened around 8.52pm, organizers said.

"We had given an application to Sector 29 police station and they had sent only two cops to spot but they were no nowhere to be seen when this ruckus happened. The miscreants claimed to be from Shiv Sena but we doubt that. Even then, since there were actors from Pakistan, security should have been better," said SS Rohilla, public relations officer of the MCG.

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Afzaal Nabi, the writer of 'Baanjh', said, "We are artistes and not bound by borders. We came here with a message of peace. The interruption did bother us but the play went ahead and we were appreciated by the audience. That is what matters." Zoya Qazi and Safina Malik, actors in the play said people in the audience had rushed to shield them from the protesters. The support made us happy," said Qazi.

Ashok Kumar, SHO, Sector 29 police station, said no written permission had been sought