Controversial Palakkad district judge Kalam Pasha used the police and forcibly stopped Mohiniyattam dancer, Dr Neena Prasad, mid-way through her performance. Bharatiya Janata Party state president V Muraleedharan, called the atrocious incident “yet another example of Talibanization of Kerala under CM Pinarayi Vijayan’s rule”.
The show was organized by the Sekharipuram Library cultural group, where the book Ithihasangale Thedi authored by Sreechitran MJ, was also released. The dance performance was part of that event and was arranged at the Government Moyan LP School auditorium in Palakkad. It began at 8 pm and Pasha who lives behind the school complained to the police that the music and dance were a nuisance for him.
As the name suggests, Mohiniyattam is a classical dance form of Kerala dedicated to Hindu Devi Mohini, the only female avatar of the Bhagwan Vishnu. The music is soothing and involves none of the cacophony involved in modern melody. Sreechitran had conceived the performance and Neena was to present “Sakhyam” which portrays the strains in the relations between Arjuna and Bhagwan Krishna.
Police stormed the venue and asked the organizers to stop the Mohiniyattam dance program. The performers who were mid-may through their dance were stunned when police accused them of creating a disturbance, but the police were adamant. Neena later mentioned on social media that the unsavoury incident left the performers sad, humiliated, and deeply hurt.
Police made the organizers switch off all the speakers, except one and the viewers were asked to huddle next to the stage. Neena continued to perform but cancelled the rest of the dance programs that were scheduled till 9.30 pm and left the venue in tears.
An organization of artists, writers, and literature enthusiasts called the Purogamana Kala Sahitya Sangham urged the public to react to such threats against artists, at the hands of bureaucrats. Kerala assembly speaker, MB Rajesh called the incident “an assault on freedom of expression and an insult to the artiste.” He added that “Pasha’s act is certainly unbecoming of a man of his stature.”
Neena reminded society that the incident took place at a time when artists are slowly trying to come out of the pandemic. She asked if artists in Kerala have to cater to unjust and inappropriate personal preferences of those in power? She asked if it was enough that cultural programs can be conducted according to the personal whims, tastes, and orders of such judges?
Meanwhile, the president of Purogamana Kala Sahitya Sangham issued a statement, condemning the incident. It reminded society that religious terrorist groups have come to power in many parts of the world. Though it is against the concept of Bharat, these groups are the very same ones who are most intolerant to art and literature. They added that this intolerance is the basic breeding ground for anti-democratic forces and has affected the minds of the people.
Such judges have become entities in themselves and they easily forget that our constitution respects creativity, art, and individual freedom of expression. Such imposition of sharia laws is seen in Afghanistan where radical Islamists have banned dance and music. Police said that they did not have a choice since a judge had asked them to stop the program.
The All India Lawyers’ Union staged a protest in front of the Palakkad district court condemning the interruption in Neena’s Mohiniyattam program.
Pasha has a colourful past and was recently accused by his wife of illegal triple talaq. She approached the Kerala high court and said judge Pasha had issued Triple Talaq against her through a letter on March 1, 2018. She added that both Pasha and his brother Kemal Pasha had threatened her with dire consequences if she refused a divorce.
Kemal, the elder brother was a High court judge who retired recently. A strong opponent of the CAA bill, he wanted the extremists including the SDPI and Jamaat-e-Islami to be included in the anti-CAA protests!
Unperturbed, the younger Pasha sent his wife a second notice where he preponed the triple talaq date to March 1, 2017. The latest controversy has not gone down well with Keralites and many have questioned his integrity and his authority. Citizens reminded Pasha that the use of microphones five times every day is a nuisance for them.
Others reminded that a similar incident had happened during the 1923 Kakinada session of Congress. As the Mastro Vishnu Digambar Paluskar began singing Vande Mataram to inaugurate the session, Congress President Maulana Muhammad Ali Jauhar went to the stage and stopped him saying it was haram and therefore not to be allowed in Congress.