The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Ponga Pandit attack protest

New Delhi, Oct. 9: Theatre director Habib Tanvir, who has faced a series of attacks from the Sangh parivar, today brought his protests to the heart of the capital.

“They disrupted my play, saying I was anti-Hindu,” said Tanvir at a protest meeting attended by hundreds of artists and cultural activists.

“We as artists, writers and fellow citizens must take on Habib Tanvir’s attackers in our work, on the stage, in the media and on the streets. And we must do this in a voice as bold and powerful as Habib Tanvir’s plays,” said the artists.

Tanvir and his theatre group, Natya Theatre, ran into trouble repeatedly in the last one month while performing the play Ponga Pandit in Madhya Pradesh, with the Sangh parivar trying to stop the performances, claiming that the play was against Hindus.

“After performing in six towns of Madhya Pradesh we arrived in Gwalior for our performance. The moment there was a reference to the Babri Masjid as a turning point to communalism, there was trouble,” said Tanvir.

When BJP leader Uma Bharti was mentioned, a youth came running and snatched the microphone from Tanvir. “Then there was slogan shouting, which threw the performance out of gear,” said the director. Police had to resort to a lathicharge to disperse the mob.

A similar incident took place in Hoshangabad. “They came and threw eggs and water bottles at us. Finally, the superintendent of police and district collector intervened and threw everyone out,” said Tanvir.

Tanvir alleged that a section of the Hindi press had also attacked the play. “A four-column article threatened that it will not allow the play to take place.”

“The RSS-VHP-Bajrang Dal-BJP ilk have displayed their love for Indian culture by throwing rotten eggs and chairs on the stage, by cutting power to the auditorium, by forcing audiences to leave and getting performances cancelled. The attackers have not even seen the play,” said the artists at today’s meeting.

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