The censored event, Mukhatib, got converted to a space of silent protest, vibrant discussion, songs and poetry.
New Delhi: Delhi University’s Ramjas college is in the eye of the storm yet again. According to the students involved with ‘Mukhatib’, Ramjas’s annual street play festival, four of the plays to be performed on campus on Friday were cancelled by the college authorities.
“The event that took place today got converted to a space of silent protest and vibrant discussion,” a member of ‘Shunya’, the dramatics society of Ramjas which conducted the event told The Wire. According to the student, the police and the authorities sought to hush up even this “peaceful, harmless session”.
The organising group which was preparing for the event on March 31 was called for an emergency meeting on Thursday evening by acting principal P.C. Tulsian. He questioned the students about the content of the plays to be performed the next day. He apparently told them that he had news from the outside that the content of some of the plays was not appropriate.
A member of the dramatics society that The Wire spoke to said, “The dramatics society has been conducting the event for many years now and the content of our plays has never been screened.”
A group of professors, which included the extra curricular activities convener Reetu Sharma, got the students to read out the synopses of the seven shortlisted plays. Four of the plays which centred around the theme of nationalism and the present quelling of dissent in university spaces were deemed controversial by the teachers and the students were told not to stage them. To add to the intrigue, a member of Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) who was involved in the violent incidents at Ramjas on February 21 and 22 was also present in the room. When students from the dramatics society protested, he said that he was invited by the principal.
The students were further asked to give an undertaking that they will not deviate from the submitted scripts. The fact that they had not disclosed the content of the plays to the authorities beforehand was also mentioned.
“The organisers as a collective decided that some sort of protest needed to be registered at the event,” the society member told The Wire. “But considering the present situation of a pervading sense of violence, we decided that we will have to do it smartly,” he added.
The event started off on time. The performers of the first play, The Trump Card, by SGTB Khalsa college sat with their mouths taped, silently on the stage. The ECA convener and the principal were in the audience watching everything closely. The former came in at this point and asked the students about this “deviation from the script”.
Kirorimal college next performed its play, Ek Aur Durghatna and Lady Shri Ram college called off its performance, Ek Shunya Nau Char, in protest. Representatives from both groups then spoke about the ongoing silencing of voices and the fact that their competitors were not allowed to perform.
After all this, when the students were sitting, singing, discussing, jamming and reading poetry, they were told to wrap things up by the authorities. All this happened in the presence of police personnel. The students also alleged that a few ABVP members sat in the audience as the plays were performed. ‘We felt the gaze of the state creep up on us all through”, said one student
According to a Facebook post by a student who was present at the event, “Some of the [dramatics society] members tried to talk but the teachers were adamant. Next moment, the police asked the dhol walas to stop.”