In a sign of growing anti-Pakistan hysteria in India, a small group of men disrupted a theatre performance by Pakistani actors on the outskirts of the Indian capital Saturday evening.
Actors from the Lahore-based Mass Foundation were in the middle of their play, Baanjh (infertile) — based on the dispute between India and Pakistan over Siachen Glacier — when around half-a-dozen young men climbed on to the stage of the open air theatre in Gurgaon and started raising slogans against Pakistan. Media outlets in India later identified the vandals as belonging to the Shiva Sena group.
“We initially thought that it (men climbing on stage) was part of the play,” said a local official. “But when they uprooted a Pakistani flag placed on the stage, we realised that they wanted to disrupt the play. They also raised slogans against Pakistan and in favour of India.”
The disruption forced the actors off the stage. It wasn’t until the organisers forced the slogan-chanting men off stage that the play resumed.
Aamir Nawaz, the play’s director, said that they had come with the message of peace and were taking back lots of love and affection of the people of India.
“We have been visiting India since 2008 and have staged plays in different parts of the country,” local newspapers quoted Nawaz as saying. “We have been to other parts of the world as well, but enjoy performing in India as we share common culture.”
He added that reports on the media about recent acts of violence in India had scared their families at home. “Our family members were worried about our security.”
MCG Art consultant V D Trikha termed the incident as “unfortunate”.
“We should not protest against the artists. They belong to all,” he said. “We have also been to Pakistan several times and got a lot of love and affection from the people there.”
“I am happy that the audience present in the theatre objected to the conduct of those trying to disrupt the play.”
On Sunday, the Times of India reported the arrest of four Shiva Sena men who interrupted the play a day earlier.
Earlier this month, the Shiv Sena had threatened Pakistani singer Ghulam Ali from performing in Mumbai, following which his concert was cancelled. Later, they doused with ink the organiser of a book launch event for ex-Pakistan foreign minister Khurshid Kasuri. And last week, dozens of Shiv Sena activists had stormed the offices of Indian cricket chief and forced him to cancel a meeting with his Pakistani counterpart.
Meanwhile, Deputy Commissioner of Police (East) Deepak Saharan said that they had not received any written complaints.
Mass Foundation is slated to perform in New Delhi on Monday. It has prompted the city’s government to beef up security so that the group can take to the stage without any interruption.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 26th, 2015.