Debating India

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BJP doesn’t like ’Ponga Pandit’

Suchananda GUPTA

Saturday 23 August 2003, by SUCHANDANA GUPTA

Article paru dans le Times of India, ?dition du 23 ao?t 2003.

BHOPAL: Veteran theatre personality Habib Tanveer’s play Ponga Pandit has invited the wrath of the BJP in Madhya Pradesh.

The state BJP accused Tanveer of instigating communal unrest two months before the assembly elections here by staging plays which hurt Hindu sentiments and hold the Hindu community "totally responsible" for communal riots.

The BJP alleged that Tanveer is being financially sponsored by chief minister Digvijay Singh to hold three such plays throughout the state as part of a Sadbhavna Yatra. According to the BJP, the chief minister has instructed the district collectors to organise the staging of these plays. All invitation cards bear the names of the district collectors as official hosts of the plays, the BJP alleged.

On Monday, Sitasharan Sharma, the BJP MLA from Itarsi, led a protest in Hoshangabad which stalled the performance of Ponga Pandit. Cases were registered against 65 protestors. Twenty are still in jail.

Scheduled staging was also called-off in Narsingar on Tuesday. Speaking to the press on Thursday, the BJP’s MLA from Indore, Kailash Vijayavargiya, said: "Why do they find all the a ilments in the Hindu pandit? Why is the Hindu pandit ponga (idiot)?"

Vijayavargiya argued: "The state government is paying Tanveer Rs 25,000 per performance to stage a play that shows a Hindu priest doing aarti with his half-consumed bidi because he cannot find an aagarbatti (incense stick). The priest does his puja while holding his slippers between his left arm and torso. Where did they ever find a Hindu priest like that?"

"The priest uses kerosene in place of ghee to light the aarti. Doesn’t this hurt Hindu sentiments? And the Digvijay Singh government is not only sponsoring, but gifting land to Habib Tanveer for such a play? What kind of Sadbhavna Yatra or communal harmony is this?’’ Vijayavargiya asked.

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