K Muraleedharan | Photo: Mathrubhumi
Kozhikode: The row over a cultural programme organised recently during the inauguration of state school youth festival here has snowballed into a political controversy with the opposition Congress on Tuesday demanding an apology from Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. The programme organised on January 3 during the inaugural ceremony of the five-day event here, landed in trouble after a section of people charged that it portrayed the Muslim community as extremists.
While CPI(M) reiterated that the party and its government would never take a stand against any particular religious community or faith, the Congress said the Left government and the CM have the moral responsibility towards the event conducted as part of the state-run youth festival. General Education Minister V Sivankutty promised to look into the incident and said the art group which had performed the programme would not be given a chance in the upcoming festivals.
"Steps will be taken not to give any more chance to those (art group) who had presented the particular programme. It will also be ascertained how such a depiction took place," he said. Tourism Minister P A Mohammed Riyas also already said there were attempts in our country to portray a particular community as extremists and the alleged association, if any, of the person in charge of that particular programme with the Sangh Parivar needs to be investigated.
As the issue continues to draw criticism from various quarters, the Marxist Party's district unit here said they were viewing the matter seriously. "The depiction of a man in a Muslim outfit, as an extremist in the programme, was contrary to the proclaimed stand and approach upheld by the LDF government and the Kerala society," CPI (M)'s Kozhikode's district secretariat said in a statement. It also urged the government to examine the matter and take necessary action.
CPI (M) state secretary M V Govindan today asserted that the Marxist party and its government would never take a stand against any particular community or faith and if anyone takes an approach contrary to this, then it would be examined. However, the ruling Congress came down on the CPI (M)-led government on the matter and sought an apology from the CM to the minority community in the state. Senior
Congress leader and MP, K Muraleedharan alleged that the Education Minister was present at the festival and the Tourism Minister had given a lead to everything. "So, how such a depiction happened during the cultural event held during the festival, conducted by the government ? The government and the CM have the moral responsibility in it," he said.
The Chief Minister should apologise to the minority community in the state and that is the Congress's stand in the issue, the leader added. However, Perambra-based MATHA, a well-known performance group which performed the cultural programme, rejected the charges and said the alleged depiction of a person as extremist with Muslim outfit was not "intentional" and they have no connection with any particular political party or ideology. Kanakadas, an office-bearer of the group, claimed that it was Tourism Minister Riyas who had first congratulated them after the event. "We welcome artists cutting across their religion, caste or political affiliations," he told the media while explaining their stand.
Asked about the controversial depiction in the event, he said it was a mistake by a person who was not a regular artist of the group. "That was not done intentionally. When he was asked to appear on the stage suddenly, he somehow came up with a cloth on his head... that has become an issue now," he said. The man had worn the particular cloth on his head following instruction not to come in a plain costume. Though the matter had died down, someone deliberately raked it up again with ulterior motives, he added.
The controversial musical programme was performed after the inauguration of the State School Youth festival last week. It depicted the Indian army apprehending a man sporting a Keffiyeh, a traditional Arab headgear worn by men. Sources claimed that when the dance was performed before the screening committee, it was done without the costume. The Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) had condemned the depiction of the minority community in a bad light in the musical programme.