By Muslim Mirror Desk
A controversy erupted in Kerala over the portrayal of a person dressed in Islamic attire as a terrorist in the recently concluded 61st State School Arts Festival in Kozhikode. Following complaints that the portrayal portrayed a specific community as terrorists, the Kerala state government ordered an investigation into the matter.
Kerala education minister V Sivankutty ordered an investigation into the incident and barred the performing arts society involved from participating in future state functions. The education minister has requested a report within the next week.
“The organization, MATHA, or Malayalam Theatrical Heritage and Arts, which staged a show as part of the welcome song during the inauguration of the festival, will not be given any opportunity next time. The controversy will be looked into and necessary action will be taken. The reception committee viewed the program before staging it during the inauguration. But it was not a final dress rehearsal of the show,’’ he said.
The theme song that sparked the controversy depicted an Army officer arresting a Muslim man who was portrayed as a terrorist. The “terrorist” in the show wore the keffiyeh, a traditional headdress of Arab men. The Indian Union Muslim League, Congress, and other organizations objected to the portrayal, inciting even more outrage.
CPI(M) leader and Public Works Minister Mohammed Riyas claimed that the show was a Sangh Parivar ploy. On Tuesday, the CPI(M) district committee in Kozhikode stated that the criticism of the stage show was serious and demanded action.
“Presenting a terrorist in Muslim attire is against the stand of the LDF government. Terrorism and extremism are not related to any particular community. It has to be examined how such a show was staged,’’ the party said in a statement.
Congress slammed the CPI(M)-led government, demanding that the Chief Minister apologize to Muslims. K Muraleedharan, a senior Congress leader and MP, claimed that the Education Minister was present at the festival and that the Tourism Minister had given the go-ahead for everything.
“So, how did such a depiction happen during the cultural event held during the festival conducted by the government? The government and the CM have a moral responsibility. The chief minister should apologize to the minority community in the state and that is the Congress’s stand on the issue.”
Meanwhile, BJP stood for the portrayal. State BJP president K Surendran slammed the CPI(M), claiming that the ruling party claims to support free expression but has catered to religious extremists.
“The government has proved that it is with fundamentalists,” he said. “The stage show was depicting the selfless service of the Indian defense forces. Now, V Sivankutty and Mohammed Riyas say that depicting the service of the Indian Army was a crime. It is a sheer anti-national approach.”
Kanakadas, the art director at MATHA, called the controversy unfortunate. “There was no politics behind the show and our artists belong to all political parties. We performed at a number of government events. Minister Riyas congratulated us after the stage show at the school festival. “At the time, no one complained about the show,” he said.
In defending his administration, the education minister stated that depicting a community in a particular way was not the official stance of his administration. He also stated that the government was considering whether the cultural group that performed the theme song should be barred from participating in General Education Department programmes.