IIT Bombay Penalizes Students Over Controversial Play 'Raahovan'
IIT Bombay Penalizes Students Over Controversial Play 'Raahovan'
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IIT Bombay has imposed fines on eight students, ranging up to Rs.1.2 lakh, for their involvement in the play 'Raahovan,' performed during the institute's Performing Arts Festival (PAF) on March 31. The play, which some students claimed was a parody of the Ramayana, has sparked a significant controversy over its alleged mockery of Hindu beliefs and deities.

The Performing Arts Festival, an annual cultural event at IIT Bombay, took a controversial turn this year with the staging of 'Raahovan' at the open-air theatre on campus. A viral video of the play depicted scenes that were perceived by some as disrespectful towards characters from the Ramayana. This led to formal complaints by students who felt that the play crossed cultural boundaries under the guise of promoting feminism.

Following the complaints, a disciplinary committee meeting was convened on May 8, which resulted in the announcement of fines and penalties on June 4. Graduating students involved in the play were fined Rs.1.2 lakh each and were also stripped of gymkhana awards. Junior students received fines of Rs.40,000 each and were debarred from hostel facilities. The penalties are due by July 20, 2024, at the office of the Dean of Student Affairs, with a warning of further sanctions for any breach.

The controversy gained momentum on social media when the 'IIT B for Bharat' group criticized the play on April 8, accusing it of mocking Lord Ram and the Ramayana. The group posted video clips from the performance and advocated for the administration to establish guidelines preventing the ridicule of any religion under the guise of freedom of expression on campus.

Reactions on campus have been mixed. While some students supported the institute's disciplinary actions, others viewed it as an infringement on artistic freedom. "I had always heard that educational institutions should be safe spaces, safe for voicing opinions. Alas, even IITs are no longer safe spaces," wrote one person on social media. Another argued, "This is egregious. Students cannot be fined in colleges for being disrespectful to any religion. Colleges are places where one should be able to freely mock religion. IIT Bombay must take this back."

The debate surrounding the 'Raahovan' play highlights the ongoing struggle between artistic expression and respect for religious sentiments. As IIT Bombay enforces its disciplinary measures, the campus community remains divided on the issue, reflecting broader societal challenges in balancing freedom of expression with cultural sensitivities.

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