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Nawazuddin Siddiqui dropped from Ramleela over religious bias

Shiva Sena man in Budhana says no Muslim man has ever featured in Ramleela plays, director Rajesh Sharma rubbishes this claim.

(Photo: Shutterbugs Images)

Mayur Lookhar

It was reported yesterday how Nawazuddin Siddiqui was dropped from a Ramleela play in his hometown Budhana, Muzaffarnagar after certain members of right-wing political party Shiv Sena objected citing that the actor was accused by his sister-in-law of assault. It was baffling why a personal matter would lead to him being dropped from the play.

However, the cat is out of the bag that it was religious bias and not a family feud which robbed Siddiqui of a childhood dream.

The actor refused to divulge the reasons but merely tweeted that his childhood dream remained unfulfilled. Siddiqui was to play the character of Mareech, Ravana’s uncle.

While Siddiqui has his lips sealed, the official word coming from Budhana confirms the fears that it was religious bias that played spoilsport.

Shiv Sena district head Mukesh Sharma claimed he had approached the police yesterday to ask the committee to drop Siddiqui from the show. 

“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,” Sharma told The Indian Express newspaper.

However, director Rajesh Sharma denied this theory. 

“Over the years, many Muslims have been part of the show, though they may not have acted on stage. They have been part of background crew, sound artistes, set designers, musicians etc. Of the Rs5 lakh needed for the 12-day show, at least Rs30,000 comes in the form of donations from Muslim families,” said Sharma.

Corroborating the director’s claim, Damodar Prasad Sharma, president of the Ramleela Committee said, “A few members of the Shiv Sena didn’t want a Muslim man to play a character in Ramleela. 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.”

DK Tyagi, the SHO of Budhana though claimed that they were willing to provide security, but the organisers got cold feet.

"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 at the spot every night,” said Tyagi.

This call by Shiv Sena comes as a surprise as the party hardly has any presence in Uttar Pradesh. Expressing surprise at Sena's call was Bhartiya Janata Party's was Jeetendra Tyagi.

"The Shiv Sena hardly has any presence or influence in this region. All they do is stop cattle trucks. All of us are disappointed that Nawazuddin couldn’t perform, but then we couldn’t have taken a chance. Even if one of their men threw a stone during the show or did something else, there could have been a ruckus," said the BJP, vice-president, Western UP.

Siddiqui has been vacationing in his hometown Budhana. So far it's not to been a memorable trip, first with the family feud and now this controversy.