The Arts

NSD Postpones 'Tamas' Performance After Social Media Campaign Spurred by BJP Ex-MP

In his message on a group, Balbir Punj had called writer Bhisham Sahni a leftist and claimed that 'Tamas' had “directly or indirectly” held the RSS responsible for communal violence during Partition.

New Delhi: The National School of Drama has indefinitely postponed the performance of Bhisham Sahni’s Tamas, days after a social media campaign was led by accounts linked to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh against the choice of the play, The Hindu has reported.

The report says that the NSD Repertory was supposed to stage the play at the Abhimanch Auditorium from August 14 to 20. It was to be part of its end-of-the-session show, for which close to two months of rehearsals had already taken place.

Two days before the show opened, the institution put up a statement on social media announcing the postponement.

Tamas, written in Hindi, is a hard-hitting and famous novel on the Partition of India and the communal politics at play at the time. It focuses on the effect of such politics on ordinary people. It has earlier been produced on television. Sahni is a Padma Bhushan recipient.

The Hindu report notes: “The social media campaign was kick-started by a message on a chat group by former Rajya Sabha MP of the BJP, Balbir Punj.”

Punj called Sahni a leftist in his message and claimed that Tamas had “directly or indirectly” held the RSS responsible for communal violence during that time. This, Punj claimed in the message, was “factually wrong”.

Later to Hindu, Punj said he said “what [he] wanted to say in the message posted on the chat group” and didn’t wish to comment further.

This message, the report says, made its way around several chat groups, and then on to X (formerly Twitter) and other public platforms.

Participants in this campaign often tagged Union ministers Arjun Ram Meghwal and Meenakshi Lekhi, who were slated to appear as special guests for the opening show on August 14.

NSD Repertory’s chief Rajesh Singh told the paper that the show has not been cancelled but postponed due to “some internal reason”.

Singh said he did not know if the social media buzz contributed to the postponement.