[Reader-list] Police defers Mr. Jinnah: Editorial

anupam pachauri anupam_iase at yahoo.co.in
Sun Jun 26 02:22:05 IST 2005

FRIDAY, JUNE 24, 2005


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


FRIDAY, JUNE 24, 2005


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

Compiled by
Anupam Pachauri
P.S. Please forward it to all concerned to safeguard
right to free expression


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