The Edit Page
Friday, June 24, 2005
Theatre of the Absurd
There's something to be said about Delhi Police's commitment to duty. What else could have prompted such swift action to stop staging f a play on Mohammad Ali Jinnah? We have been told that the script was confiscated not because of its contents, but because the auditorium that would host the play had its commercial-use licence suspended. This is rather absurd. The pendencey of licence renewal hadn't stopped other plays from being staged at the same venue. So where was the need for drama?
Whether the police are trying to score brownie points or simply latching on to the latest intellectual fashion statement-Jinnah-bashing-we still don't quite know yet. But why at all it is the police's job to 'inspect' works of entertainment? The law says that the police can stop the staging of a play if it threatens to 'upset' public morality or creates an unmanageable traffic situation or is liable to spark off law and order problems. The theatre goers as well s civil libertarians eagerly await the police's confirmation as to what prompted the seizure.
The nebulous reasons cited for cancelling the play only go to show just how robbed we are as a society of any sense of moderation. The police will be shocked if we were to charge it for harbouring a colonial type mindset. But that is pretty much what the police action has been about. Again, it is an equally curious deal if our law does require the police to vet, prior to public viewing, form of entertainment. A society that boasts of its democratic tradition and temperament cannot possibly allow-very literally- the moral police to decide what can or cannot be put on the stage. If the police does have the power to censor, it must use it with caution and sensitivity in the larger interests of a democracy's right to free _expression.
< style="color: rgb(204, 102, 204);">Anupam Pachauri
Asmita Arts Group