• Controversy Over Poster of a Play in AMU, Play Cancelled

    Malvika Singh

    November 21, 2018

    Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) has cancelled the staging of Asghar Wajahat’s play Jis Lahore Nai Vekhya after the organisers put up a banner portraying a faulty map of India showing Jammu and Kashmir in Pakistan, a part of Arunachal Pradesh in China, and a part of Pakistan placed in India.

    The Drama Club, a unit of the university’s Cultural Educational Centre, had planned the show at the Kennedy Auditorium on the campus on Monday. Banners and posters of the play, which is set in 1947, and portrays the human tragedy of Partition, were put up on a wall outside the auditorium. The university on Monday issued show-cause notices to the president and secretary of its drama club for putting up the posters.

    BJP’s Brij Chhetra Vice President Manvendra Pratap Singh reportedly intimated AMU proctor Mohsin Khan, and the additional district magistrate about the posters. However, university sources said a few students pointed out the mistakes in the map to the authorities on Sunday.

    Perhaps, realising that members of a particular political dispensation could turn it into an issue, Vice Chancellor Tariq Mansoor ordered removal of the banner, and cancelled the show, university sources said. However, Singh has vowed to escalate the matter further.

    “Although the banner was removed and the stage show was cancelled after I complained to the district administration and university authorities, we have decided to lodge a formal complaint with (Union) Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javadekar,” he said. “It’s a matter related to sedition, and a case must be registered against those responsible.”

    Written by noted Hindi writer Asghar Wajahat in the 1980s, the plot of the play revolves around Mirzas, a Muslim family that migrates from Lucknow to Lahore during Partition, and are allotted a haveli (a house), which has been evacuated by a Hindu family. When they arrive in Lahore, they find an elderly Hindu woman living in the haveli, claiming its ownership, and refusing to leave. The Muslim family gradually settles in the haveli along with the Hindu woman, and drops the idea of evicting her.

    AMU’s public relations in-charge M Shafey Kidwai told The Indian Express that action will be taken after receiving replies to the notices issued to the drama club president, secretary and the employee, adding that the play was “anti-partition” and “anti-communal”.

    Although Kidwai clarified that there was no dispute over the play, which has been staged in the AMU many times in the past, students feel that these kind of controversies are putting unnecessary pressure on the university, and is constantly marring the university’s image.

    Haider, general secretary, Students’ Court, told Newsclick, “There was a mistake. The organisers of the play felt that the poster should have undivided India, since it is based in 1947. The same was conveyed to the people who were supposed to make the poster. They also just googled the first image, and printed it on the poster. We admit that it was our fault and we should have checked the image. But, to create a political controversy out of this makes no sense. It was not intentional; it was just irresponsible.”

    He further added that because of the notices sent, the general secretary of the Drama Society, Razia, who is a first year student, has left the society, and has also switched off her phone because she has got scared because of how the controversy has picked up the pace.

    Students also feel that since the Drama Society had been practising for this for over a month, and the mistake was pointed on Sunday itself, and was rectified, cancelling the show was unnecessary. “All the cast worked so hard for a month, and just before the show, because of the pressure on AMU, the VC cancelled the play,” said Haider.

    Another student, Shrajeel Usmani told Newsclick, “AMU has become a target for anything. They find anything to label us anti-national. The narrative that has long been fed to everybody about AMU is helping people to target the university for the slightest of a glitch. This is slowly killing the democratic nature of this university because we have no room for errors. Students, who make any error, are labelled anti-national causing a trauma to them.”


    First published in Newsclick.

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