An incident of grave concern unfolded at Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU) on Friday, February 1, as a controversial play, titled ‘Jab We Met’, was performed at the Lalit Kala Kendra, eliciting widespread outrage for its mockery of Bhagwan Ram and Mata Sita. The play, staged as part of a competition, stirred significant controversy within the university community.
The play revolved around the behind-the-scenes interactions among actors in ‘Ramleela’ and included a scene where a male artist portrayed Mata Sita smoking a cigarette and uttering abusive language. The portrayal of Hindu deities in such a disrespectful manner prompted strong objections from the ABVP, leading to the filing of an FIR against the artists. Subsequently, the police arrested them in connection with the incident.
Following outrage and a complaint, a professor and five students found themselves embroiled in legal turmoil following accusations of religious insensitivity stemming from a play production.
Dr Pravin Bhole, the professor overseeing the theatrical endeavour, along with five students, faced arrest on charges of purportedly ridiculing Bhagwan Ram and Mata Sita through derogatory dialogues and scenes enacted in a play based on the epic saga of ‘Ramleela’.
The performance, which drew immediate ire from members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and students within the Lalit Kala Kendra community, allegedly depicted Bhagwan Ram and Mata Sita in a disrespectful manner, with one scene purportedly showing Mata Sita smoking a cigarette and engaging in vulgar language.
The ABVP members, while raising objection to the mockery of Ramayana and Bhagwan Ram and Mata Sita, emphasised that Ramayana is not mythology but history.
ABVP Pune shared footage of the objectionable play on social media platforms, condemning the portrayal of revered deities as “clowns” and denouncing the Fine Arts Center of Savitribai Phule Pune University for permitting such offensive content.
Taking to X, ABVP Pune shared a video of the offensive play and wrote, “Prabhu Shriram and Sita Mata were portrayed as clowns in the dramas presented by the department of Fine Arts Center of Savitribai Phule Pune University.”
सावित्रीबाई फुले पुणे विद्यापीठामधील ललित कला केंद्र या विभागाकडून सादर केलेल्या नाटकांमध्ये प्रभू श्रीराम व सीता माता यांची भूमिका विदूषक प्रमाणे दाखवण्यात आली. त्याच बरोबर प्रभू श्रीराम यांना राखी सावंत व देवी देवतांच्या पात्राच्या मुखातून शिव्या व आक्षेपार्ह भाषा वापरण्यात आली pic.twitter.com/gPxE7QdXN5
— ABVP Pune (@ABVPPune) February 2, 2024
Prompted by a formal complaint lodged by ABVP functionary Harshvardhan Harpude, authorities registered a case under section 295 (A) of the Indian Penal Code, addressing deliberate acts aimed at outraging religious sentiments. The accused, including Dr Pravin Bhole and students Bhavesh Patil, Jay Pednekar, Prathamesh Sawant, Rishikesh Dalvi, and Yash Chikhle, were subsequently apprehended.
According to the filed complaint, ABVP members intervened during the play and were met with resistance and physical aggression from the performers.
As investigations unfold, both parties involved have lodged counter-complaints at the Chatuhshrungi police station. Law enforcement officials are in the process of gathering statements from all parties concerned, with the possibility of further legal action pending verification of the claims. Authorities have indicated the potential for filing FIRs against the play’s organisers, citing allegations of inciting religious discord and hurting Hindu sentiments.