After banning Pakistani artistes in India, Muslim Bollywood actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui faces the brunt of Shiv Sena’s outrage as he is forced to leave a play in his hometown village minutes before his performance.
The 42-year-old actor had been invited by artistes of his village in Budhana, Muzaffarnagar to be a part of their play in the Ramlila – a religious theatre festival held across India which celebrates Hindu god Ram’s victory over evil.
“People had come to invite me for the Ramlila and I asked them if I could play a character in it, since it was something I had always wanted to do. They offered me the role of Mareech, since it was the only one that was to be staged before I had to leave for Delhi,
Unfortunately, his ‘childhood dream’ came to an abrupt halt as the Hindu-right wing party disrupted the event and forced the organisers to stop the play citing Siddiqui’s religion as the issue.
“In the 50-60 year history of the Budhana Ramlila, no Muslim artist has set foot on the stage. We couldn’t allow that now. It’s about tradition,” said Mukesh Sharma, Shiv Sena’s Muzaffarnagar vice president.
“On top of that, it is wrong on the part of the Ramlila organisers to chuck out the actor who was initially supposed to play Mareech at the last minute, just so that they could have a famous actor on stage. Moreover, Nawazuddin is a disputed figure here. His sister-in-law has levelled allegations of assault and dowry harassment against him. We shouldn’t have such a person associated with the Ramlila,” he added.
The Badlapur actor didn’t resist and quietly left the event, stating that “there were some technical issues.” He was quoted telling news channels, “I was told I should not do it as it was important to maintain peace in the village.”
The Sena, a Maharashtra-based party in UP, has refused to let any Muslim be a part of the play, now, and in the future. “We won’t allow anyone named Nawazuddin to participate in Ramlila. In this Ramlila’s 50-year history no one named ‘din’ has played any role,” said local Sena leader Mukesh Sharma.
Due to the disturbance, the festival was cancelled for the night. On the matter Damodar Sharma, president of Budhana’s Ramlila Committee said, “The committee wasn’t informed in time about Nawazuddin playing Mareech. It was a decision taken by the artists. We got to know only two hours before the performance and before we could request for additional police presence, the protesters reached the spot.”
“We realised that given Budhana is a communally sensitive area, it would not be wise to argue with them. Hence, we decided not to proceed with it.”
Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Akhilesh Yadav reportedly opposed all hate-mongering against artistes, and said, “Artistes have no religion. We must avoid elements that are trying to take the discourse in a different direction.”