PUNE: The organizers of 'Firodiya Karandak', a popular inter-collegiate drama competition, have decided not to allow plays dealing with "sensitive" subjects such as Babri Masjid, Article 370, Hindu-Muslim relations or caste dynamics.
Noted playwright Satish Alekar said such a rule was unwarranted, and it was now for students to decide if they wished to use such a platform to express themselves.
The annual competition, which started four decades ago and always draws a full house, will be held in the city in the first week of February.
Rules for the event were released on Wednesday.
"To maintain social harmony and law and order, the organizers, from this year, have decided not to permit entries with sensitive subjects like Hindu-Muslim, Jammu & Kashmir, Article 370, India-Pakistan, Ram Mandir and Babri Masjid or the subjects that comment on any caste or religion," said a rule.
If a group presents a play on any such subject, it would be disqualified, the rules warned.
When contacted, chief organizer of the competition Ajinkya Kulkarni said, "Being too young and amateur, participants do not have the knowledge and the depth required to handle such sensitive issues.
"Students are unaware of consequences if something unwarranted is said on this platform, which has a certain legacy, and as organizers the responsibility lies with us," he said.
The rules do not say that a play should not mention a particular religion, but it must not create ill-feelings against any religion, he said.
Firodiya Karandak is a platform for showcasing artistic talent and not political leanings, Kulkarni added.
"In the last three or four years, we saw that participants came with subjects which have been done do death, commenting on religious and caste lines," he said.
Generally, students favour subjects related to current issues in the country, he said.
"My question to students is, are farmer suicides, drought, economy, unemployment, quality of education not current issues? Why only subjects with comment on religion and caste interest them?" Kulkarni asked.
A bar against a few "sensitive" issues was not a curtailment of students' freedom of expression, he argued.
The competition's format allows the presentation of a hodge-podge act combining theatre, music and other fine arts.
Senior playwright and theatre director Satish Alekar called the restrictions "unwarranted", and noted that those who take part in the competition are above 18 years of age.
"They are responsible citizens, they know who to vote for, and they have views on various issues," he said.
If students are creating some kind of art, that art always reflects the society, so art can not function in isolation, said Alekar.
If the organizers wanted to curtail students' freedom to choose a subject, it is up to the students to participate or reject the platform, he said.
"One should not be afraid of expressing one's views. Let the audience decide, if they do not like the performance, they will walk out," he said.