Professional Kathak danseuse Avni Sethi (27) this week took the daring step of dancing on the streets of Ahmedabad to protest against graffiti warning against ‘Love Jihad’ and warning Hindu women against being seduced by Muslim men.
She danced at four public places on Wednesday to the tune of the song, ‘Pyar Kiya to Darna Kya’ from the iconic film ‘Mughal-e-Azam’. (the video is by Ashudeep Sharma)
Talking to NH from Ahmedabad, Sethi, who hogged headlines in 2013 when she launched a museum on conflicts ‘Conflictorium’, said she was shocked to see the brazen threats scrolled all over the city with people and the police paying scant attention to them.
In some places the name of Bajrang Dal , she said, had been mentioned within the graffiti while elsewhere no names figured in the threats and warnings held out. But to the best of her knowledge, no complaint had been lodged by anyone and no action has been taken against anyone either.
She was initially apprehensive about dancing in public spaces, she said. These were busy, bustling streets and she was not sure of the reception her performance would have. But she was relieved to find people clapping at the end of her performance though she was also questioned why she was protesting against graffiti that some people found to be in order. At some places she had to explain why she chose to perform with the threats scrolled on walls in the background.
Asked what triggered her decision to perform, Sethi candidly said that as a professional dancer, she could lodge her protest through dancing. “ How long do we keep depicting only the love and dalliances of Radha and Krishna ?”
“Earlier I had performed in street plays,” said Sethi, “ but this is the first time I danced on the street. But just as in the film Madhubala looks at Emperor Akbar, I tried to look at the graffiti with similar pleas in my eyes,” she recalled with a chuckle.
She did not find it strange for a Hindu woman and a Muslim man to fall in love with each other. “There have been Hindu men also who have been in love with Muslim women. But why should that be a problem? And why call it a Love Jihad?”
Sethi, who has been receiving both compliments and criticism on the social media, feels strongly about the witch-hunt against couples in love. On social media, she admits to have been abused and called a publicity monger.
When asked if she would continue doing so in future, she said she is not sure if she would continue to dance on the streets. “But such things must be protested against and that I will certainly do.”