Muzzafarnagar’s Budhana tehsil will not witness the performance of its star artist in this year’s Ramlila. After a few people from Shiv Sena protested to a ‘Muslim’ man playing a character in Ram Leela, Siddiqui decided to pull out in order to maintain the
“peace” in village.
“We forward to his performance. Over 2,000 people had come here yesterday but a few hours before the show we were told he will not perform,” says Dharmendra Goyal, 43, who plays Marich, Ravana’s uncle, in the production. Siddiqui had prepared to play the same character. “He rehearsed for two hours with the team yesterday, learnt the lines… but the plans changed in the last minute,” adds Goyal, who has a dairy business.
Nawazuddin Siddiqui, belongs to Budhana and has been on a vacation in his hometown. After he was informed of the protest because of his involvement, he said, “Ever since I was a child I wanted to be part of this, even the people in the town were very excited, but around 6 pm yesterday I was told I can’t participate. I accepted the decision.”
Damodar Prasad Sharma, president of the Ram Leela Committee said, “ A few members of the Shiv Sena didn’t want a Muslim man to play a character in Ram Leela. Then the police told us that we should not let Nawazuddin participate and, if at all we do, and there is a problem during the show, we will have to take responsibility. We were not ready for that, there were just too many people in the audience, we couldn’t have controlled the crowds in case of a ruckus.”
Shiv Sena district head Mukesh Sharma said, “For over 50 years, no Muslim has been a part of the production. Why should this be allowed now? We went to the police and our members went around town to spread the word and urge people to stop this.”
Siddiqui refused to comment on Shiv Sena’s objection to his performance.
“My childhood dream could not come true, but will definitely be a part of Ramleela next year. Check the rehearsals,” he tweeted with a link of the rehearsal video.
DK Tyagi, the SHO of Budhana, however, claims that his team was willing to provide security. “All nearby villages were informed a day in advance through WhatsApp that Nawazuddin was going to perform,” he said. “We got to know about it only a few hours before the show. No one came to us for permission, which they should have done ideally, two days prior to the event. Even then, we sent 25 policemen to the venue, as opposed to the 4-5 policemen who are usually on the spot every night.”