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Eminent Theatre Director S Raghunandana Refuses Sangeet Natak Akademi Award to Protest ‘Mob Violence in The Name of Religion & God’

"The powers-that-be are directly, or indirectly, responsible for these deadly acts of murder and violence.”

Eminent Karnataka-based theatre director S Raghunandana reportedly refused to accept the 2018 Sangeet Natak Akademi award on Wednesday, July 17 to protest “mob lynching in the name of God and religion” and “throttling the voices of conscientious intellectuals and activists.”

In a statement,  he said that he cannot “accept this award when such injustice was being done to these dharmamargis in my country in the name of the country.”

“The Sangeet Natak Akademi is an autonomous institution and has been, on the whole, upholding its principles of autonomy through the years,” he said, adding, “However, today there is mob lynching and violence in the name of God and religion, and even in the matter of what one eats. The powers-that-be are directly, or indirectly, responsible for these deadly acts of murder and violence.”

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The instances of mob violence, particularly against members of the minority Muslim community, have become commonplace since the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in 2014. After the 2019 general election, there has been a surge in the targeting of Muslims by right-wing extremists, who often force the victims to chant the Hindu slogan of “Jai Shri Ram”.

In his statement, Raghunandana also spoke up about the growing intolerance in the country and the persecution of dissenters of the ruling regime. “Young people such as Kanhaiya Kumar who should shape the future of India and the world at large are facing charges of sedition and criminal conspiracy. Others – intellectuals and social activists – are facing trial under UAPA. Most of them have not even got bail and are spending time in prison. These are people who have always stood up for the cause of the most exploited and downtrodden of our country and everywhere else.

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They have argued on behalf of the exploited in the courts, have written books and articles about their suffering, have guided them to fight non-violently, have always followed the tenets prescribed by the Constitution of India, and have upheld its spirit and values. They have waged their righteous struggle with not a thought for themselves. Yet they are in prison.”

Last year, prominent human rights activists and academics including Sudha Bhardwaj, Varavara Rao, Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira and Gautam Navlakha were arrested by Maharashtra police for having “Maoist links”. The crackdown was condemned nationally as well us by the international community as an assault on freedom of speech and silencing of dissenters. In a similar move against critics, the residence and offices of noted human rights lawyers Indira Jaising and Arun Grover were raided by the CBI earlier this month.

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