Memorandum submitted to the President regarding the attack on Sahmat Rangmanch in Lucknow
Sahmat would like to apprise the Honourable President of India of a serious attack on its theatre group, Sahmat Rangmanch, on the evening of September 22 at Lucknow.
The group was returning after cancellation of a scheduled performance of the play Teen Terah ka Chakkar, since the Chief Minister was scheduled to have a meeting at the same venue. The vehicles in which the group was travelling were intercepted at Bans Mandi Chowk in the city by goons led by a BJP MLC, Ajit Singh. Members of the group were abused, dragged out and beaten, including by the policemen accompanying the MLC.
These performances are part of a series of Sahmat programmes organized in a number of cities in the country, which include, besides the play, an exhibition of posters, ‘Harvest of Hatred’, depicting the serious social schisms that have emerged in the country over the last 18 months of the BJP-led coalition’s rule. There has never been the slightest threat of breach of the peace or social order on any of these occasions. Yet permission was denied for the programme at Agra, and at Faizabad the local administration shut down the venue after the exhibition had been put up.
The attack in Lucknow is the most serious in this cycle of events which represent an affront to the constitutional right to freedom of expression. An FIR has been filed under sections 147, 323, 504 IPC. With the exception of the BJP, all political parties, cultural and social organizations and eminent individuals in Lucknow have expressed serious concern at this incident of violence, and demanded immediate arrest and prosecution of the perpetrators. Yet the administration in the constituency represented by the Prime Minister is conspicuous by its inactivity. The miscreants are yet to be arrested and continue to threaten the protesting artists.
Sahmat has always upheld the right to freedom of expression and unfailingly protested any attack on this fundamental right, including through representations to the Honourable President. We do so again with deep anguish and concern. We appeal to the Honourable President to exert his authority to ensure that such incidents do not recur and that the rule of law is upheld.