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Karnataka: Bajrang Dal Interrupts Play Performance Because it Showed Interfaith Couple

Rangabelaku, a Shivamogga-based theatre group, was performing well-known writer and lyricist Jayant Kaikini's play Jotegiruvanu Chandira – a Kannada adaptation of Joseph Stein's Fiddler on the Roof.

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New Delhi: The performance of a Kannada play was reportedly interrupted and stopped midway after a group of Bajrang Dal members raised slogans and climbed on the stage. The incident took place on Sunday (July 3) evening in Anavatti in Sorab taluk of Shivamogga district, Karnataka, according to The Hindu.

The newspaper reported that Rangabelaku, a Shivamogga-based theatre group, was performing well-known writer and lyricist Jayant Kaikini’s play Jotegiruvanu Chandira – a Kannada adaptation of Joseph Stein’s Fiddler on the Roof.

The event had been organised by the Kannada Sahitya Parishat, Karnataka Janapada Parishat and Kannada Samskruthika Vedike. Soon after the performance began, Bajrang Dal members led by Sridhar Achar started pressurising the organisers and saying that the play should not be cancelled because it featured Muslim characters, The Hindu reported.

“A couple of minutes before my entry, some people raised slogans and climbed up to the stage, leaving all of us in shock. We never anticipated this,” Kotrappa G. Hiremagadi, a senior member of the Rangabelaku team, told The Hindu.

Achar claimed that this play – with Muslim characters – cannot be performed in a marriage hall belonging to Veerashaivas. He insisted that the audience leave. Members of the right-wing group also claimed there was a “love jihad” angle in the play. “I’m told there is a love jihad angle in which a Hindu boy marries one of the Muslim characters. This will send a wrong signal to the community,” Bajrang Dal state coordinator Raghu Sakleshpura told The Telegraph.

“Love jihad” is a bogey often used by Hindu right groups to harass interfaith couples. The Bharatiya Janata Party has also legislated against it in various states.

“Our troupe has been staging plays for the last 15 years. We chose the play to spread communal harmony and peace in society. A team of 22 actors, including six women, had been to the village to stage the play,” Hiremagadi said.

The police reportedly reached the scene after the performance had already been interrupted. Hiremagadi said no police complaint would be filed “as there is no point doing so”, The Telegraph reported.

Congress leader and former Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah said that the incident was an “act of cultural terrorism” by members of the Sangh parivar. “The State government should arrest all miscreants involved in the act and punish them,” he added.