Actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui cherished a dream to play a character in Ramleela. But, his dream could not be fulfilled, only because MNS did not want it that way. All of sudden a few political outfits have become the custodians of religion, talent and culture. Dussehra is a festival that marks the victory of good over evil, but society is yet to deeply imbibe this ideology.
The burning of Ravan effigy after a successful completion of 10-days Ramleela, has been more of a social event since time immemorial. Though this happens at the backdrop of a Hindu festival, it has largely been a cultural event that has seen participation of all communities. For as long as we remember, Muslim communities have been involved in the management of Ramleela, several actors from minority community have played important characters and several Muslim artists were involved in making colourful effigies of Ravan and his demon brothers.
It is ironical that Nawazuddin could not fulfil his childhood dream as he wished to play any role in the Hindu legend. The actor who hails from Budhana, a small town in Uttar Pradesh, wanted to be a part of the local Ramleela and the committee didn’t seem to have a problem having their home grown star featuring as one of the characters.
But, he could not because he was dropped at the last minute at the behest of a few men posing as Shiv Seva workers. These self-appointed religious police mounted pressure on the Ramleela committee ensuring that a Muslim minority member didn’t get any role in a Hindu legend.
The childhood dream of a Budhana resident was shattered by a handful of unsocial elements who don’t seem to want any communal amity.
It was disturbing to note that the district administration, including an IAS District Magistrate and an IPS Superintendent of Police, did not intervene in the matter to promote communal harmony. Equally disturbing is the indifference on the part of the state administration under the self-proclaimed progressive CM Akhilesh Yadav.
While Yadav has been trying to woo Muslim voters in his poll-bound state, but, when it came to show inclusivity and his liberalism, he failed to curb the intolerance. Ironically Samajwadi Party’s stance so far has been perceived to be pro-minority.
This was demonstrated when the party and State administration came forward in support of the Muzaffarnagar communal riots or dealing with the case of the Dadri lynching. It’s intriguing that with elections in the state only a few months away, the UP Government and the ruling party chose to ignore this incident, possibly to avoid any tension with Shiv Sena.
They could have used this opportunity to bring the two communities together and set an example in the coming elections. But, we guess the stakes were high to take a risk by using their clout to allow Nawazuddin to act and thus ensure furthering of harmony.
The entire episode exposes the power Shiv Sena has despite its scanty presence in UP. The party wanted to meddle with the internal issues of the community only to make known its presence in the state ahead of the polls. Siddique apparently offered Shiv Sena a perfect opportunity to show their power.
Amongst all the state and non-state actors in UP, Nawazuddin emerged as the best actor in the whole Ramleela episode. He displayed his maturity by swallowing the bitter pill and maintaining his silence to avoid matters getting out of hand.
Unlike other Muslim actors, who openly expressed concerns at the increasing religious intolerance in the country, Siddiqui chose to keep mum. We all know, how Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan faced backlash, after they spoke of the increasing ‘disharmony’ in the country.
“I could not fulfil my childhood dream,”-is all that Siddiqui said. Though Deepika Padukone came for Siddique’s rescue, asking for more fluidity from the authorities, but, nothing from
other actors belonging to minority. Nawazuddin is hopeful that he will get a chance to be a part of Ram Leela, next year. He refrained from making political comments only because he realised how dangerous it is to comment on the ‘nationalism’ wave which has gripped the nation. This goes on to prove that the film fraternity is no mood to invite controversy and risk their business.
While Siddiqui’s case turned into a major controversy-there are several Ramleela committees across the country, where Muslims have been playing important roles either on stage or in the management.
Back in the capital, communal harmony continues as the prominent Ram Leela committee has no reservations casting a 27 year old Muslim boy, Mujibur Rehman, Mujibur is an art student who plays Kumbhakarna, Ravana’s brother at Nav Shri Dharmik Ramleela and till now, no political party has objected to it.
The forceful ban on Pakistani actors have worked in favour of the political outfits, but this doesn’t mean that communal harmony at religious festivals should be controlled too. Several creative people belonging to minority community have memorably contributed to Hinduism. Hinduism is a liberal and plural tradition famous for its inclusivity and ability to bring everyone aboard. Yet this incident is now showing a different trend.
Several Muslim singers, lyricists and poets have creatively contributed in some legendary movies, fortunately no one ever thought of protesting against it.
Hindu devotional song ‘Man tarpat Hari darshan ko Aaj’ from the film Baiju Bawra is one of the best creations sung by Mohammad Rafi and directed by Naushad. Javed Akhtar has been credited with some of the most soulful Hindu bhajans.
All these have been a perfect example of communal harmony at the heart of Hindu philosophy, we can only hope to have a more conducive and inclusive environment in the country.