New Delhi: Nine people, including the principal of a Bengaluru educational institution, were recently arrested over the performance of a skit that many believed had been casteist and allegedly defamed Dr B.R. Ambedkar.
Several political parties and other organisations have protested against and demanded sensitisation in classrooms in the aftermath of the event.
The Indian Express reports principal Dr Dinesh Nilkant, students and the youth festival organiser of Jain University’s Centre for Management Studies were arrested on Monday, February 13. The performance took place at the Nimhans Convention Centre, in a section of the youth fest which comprised a contest where participants had to perform in ‘mad ads’ or humorous advertisements.
This segment was centred on reservation.
Newsclick has reported that for a particular skit, students had chosen the fictitious product ‘beer Ambedkar’ and delivered lines such as “why be a Dalit when you can be ‘the lit’?”
The skit portrayed Ambedkar in different scenarios and attempted to generate humour through the use of puns, the report adds.
Newsclick noted that Ambedkar is also represented as dining with a woman who would not let him eat from the same plate. The narrator also said, according to Newsclick, “He tried to join the army, there also he couldn’t become general (sic).”
One of the students who had petitioned against the skit online spoke to The News Minute and offered a slightly different version of the jokes in the skit.
“The skit they performed showcased a man from a lowered caste background trying to date an upper-caste woman. The makers turned BR Ambedkar into ‘Beer Ambedkar’ and used several other problematic phrases like ‘Why be Dalit when you can be D-Lit’, to supposedly spark humour.”
The student’s online petition has 6,752 and calls the skit “casteist and insensitive.”
Video clips of the skit garnered criticism and outrage on social media. In most, the audience can also be heard cheering loudly.
Madhusudhana K.N., the assistant director of the social welfare department, Bengaluru South, filed a complaint with police, after which the nine were arrested. Police have opened an investigation.
The Indian Express reports that they were held under Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act sections 3 (1) (r) (intentionally insult or intimidate with intent to humiliate a member of SC or ST within public view), 3(1) (s) (abuse any member of ST or ST by caste name within public view) and 3(1)(v) (disrespect any late person held in high esteem by members of SC or ST).
Indian Penal Code sections 153A (promoting enmity), 149 (unlawful assembly) and 295A (deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs) were also invoked.
College authorities appeared to defend the skit, noting that it reflected the picture of caste and reservation. They also noted that this was a rehearsed performance and the third time the group ‘Delroys Boys’ was performing it.
The matter was brought up in the state assembly where in the zero hour, JD(S) MLA Dr K Annadani, demanded that the ‘deemed university’ status of Jain University be withdrawn, according to Newsclick.