Pune varsity prof, 5 students arrested for 'objectionable' play on Hindu deities

All the accused are attached to Lalit Kala Kendra of SPPU, where Bhole is the play's director and others are artistes and a writer

Savitribai Phule Pune University
Savitribai Phule Pune University
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Nadeem Inamdar

Pune Police have arrested five students, as well as the director of the Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU) Centre for Performing Arts Dr Praveen Bhole, for staging a play which allegedly made fun of Hindu deities Lord Ram and Sita during a performance at SPPU on Friday.

All the accused are attached to Lalit Kala Kendra of SPPU, where Bhole is the play's director and others are artistes and a writer. The incident took place on Friday evening during a play that led to vociferous protests from BJP students' wing Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) activists who stormed the venue. 

The ABVP accused the artistes and play director of having used "highly  objectionable language" while depicting Lord Ram and his consort Sita, and ABVP Pune city chief Harshwardhan Harpude lodged an FIR at Chaturshringi police station early on Saturday.

Senior police inspector Balaji Pandhre, in-charge of the police station, said, "The play's script with the offensive depiction and dialogues was knowingly approved by director Bhole. The script has depicted issues such as deities smoking, and it is definitely offensive. No action was taken against this objectionable content by Lalit Kala Kendra professors. As many as five students and Prof. Bhole have been arrested," he said.

Besides Bhole, the writer of the play Bhavesh Patil, director Jay Pednekar and actors Prathamesh Savant, Hrushikesh Dalvi, Yash Chikhale and others have been booked under sections 295A (insulting religious beliefs), 294 (obscene acts and songs), 143 (unlawful assembly), 147 (rioting), 149, 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 116, 117 (abetting commission of offence) of the IPC, and sections of the Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA), 2003.

In his FIR, Harpude stated that he and his friends went to the open theatre at Lalit Kala Kendra on the SPPU premises on Friday evening to watch plays staged by students. 

“One of the plays, titled Jab We Met, allegedly contained offensive words and comments by the actors. A male actor playing the role of Sita was seen smoking on stage and using abusive language during the play,” the complaint stated, also claiming that when members of the ABVP took objection to the play and stopped the performance, the artistes started heckling and assaulting them.9-

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