The Pune Police on Saturday arrested the department head of Savitribai Phule Pune University’s Centre for Performing Arts, also known as Lalit Kala Kendra, and five of its students for staging a play which depicts Hindu deities Ram, Sita and Laxman after the play was disrupted by a group of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad workers.
Pravin Dattatraya Bhole, a professor at the university since 1997, was arrested alongside the play’s writer and director, Bhavesh Rajendra Patil. The detained actors include Jay Pedanekar, Prathamesh Savant, Hrushikesh Dalvi, and Yash Chikhale.
The six have been charged with the Indian Penal Code sections 295A (insulting religious beliefs), 294 (obscene acts and songs), 143 and 149 (unlawful assembly), 147 (rioting) and 323 (voluntarily causing hurt). The police have also invoked sections 116 and 117 (abetting commission of offence) of the Maharashtra Police Act and sections of the Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products Act.
The drama, named “Jab We Met,” delves into the behind-the-scenes experiences of actors within a Ramleela group. Crafted, directed, and enacted by college students, the production took place on campus last Friday. A viral video from the performance captures a male actor, depicting Sita, smoking a cigarette and uttering expletives.
The play was disrupted by a group of ABVP workers, including the organisation’s Pune unit chief Harshwardhan Harpude, who later filed a complaint at the Chaturshringi Police Station on Friday night against the play’s “objectionable and abusive” content.
Meanwhile, Savitribai Phule Pune University has formed a fact-finding committee to investigate the incident. In a statement, the university said, “Parody of any person, legend or historical figure is completely wrong and prohibited.” The statement added that it was the university’s responsibility “to ensure that no one takes the law into their own hands.”