Sunday, June 26, 2005

Muzzling Dissent - Editorial Opinion / The Times of India

The Times of India, New Delhi

Editorial Opinion

Friday, June 24, 2005

Muzzling Dissent

Delhi Police bans play on Jinnah

It's the timing which has landed it in trouble. The play would have probably sailed through smoothly had L K Advani raised so much heat and dust on Jinnah's persona. With all the attention focused on Pakistan's founder, Arvind Gaur's play, Mr. Jinnah, ran into rough weather. A day before it was to be staged at the India Habitat Centre in the capital, the Delhi Police asked for its script and even though it was promptly submitted, the play was 'deferred'. The police say that the script was submitted late, it was illegible and that the IHC auditorium's licence had expired. The police may even argue that it was only playing safe given the kind of passion Jinnah has been evoking in recent weeks. Such arguments are specious. The police action is outrageous. It's a sinister assault on creative freedom. "Especially since it is not a political portrayal, the script revolves around the personal life of Jinnah", says Gaur. But even if it was, the police have no business proscribing or even vetting the play. Are they competent to do so? The police's role is to maintain law and order. They cannot ban a play anticipating trouble.

Of course, this is not the first time a play has been banned. Earlier, Vijay Tendulkar's Sakharam Binder and Ghasiram Kotwal and Vijay Apte's Mi Nathuram Godse Boltoy were stopped being staged. Few will disagree that orchestrated disruption of law and order to get a work of art banned is becoming a regular feature of our social life. The dogmatism which seeks to suppress artistic and creative _expression is gaining ground. Giving in to such demands only encourages and strengthens the forces of intolerance. In the process the citizen's constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of _expression is trampled. The most reprehensible aspect of such suppression of artistic liberty is that the threat of public violence and the official action to counter it end up serving the same objective-of silencing dissent and stifling creativity.

posted by
Anupam Pachauri

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