Since July 2011, maraa, a media and arts collective based in Bangalore, has organised a series of events titled Pause: In times of Conflict with the intention of creating a public forum for exchange on art and creative practices in conflict ridden areas. The events consistently focused on the role of creativity as a peaceful space of dialogue.
On November 5th 2011, the Pause event was scheduled to discuss literature, performing and visual arts in Kashmir and included the participation of Inder Salim, a performing artist from New Delhi, Abhishek Majumdar, a theatre director from Bangalore, the reading of excerpts from Mirza Waheed’s well known novel The Collaborator (Penguin, 2011) and the projection of Hopscotch, an animated short film by Sajad Mallik. This event was to take place at the workspace of rafiki, a theatre organisation that works out of a small space owned by the K. K Foundation and Public Charitable Trust.
The night before the event, on November 4th, Tajinder Pal Singh Bagga, president of the group Bhagat Singh Kranti Sena, circulated a letter spreading false information that the event was a Hurriyat conference, promoting separatist and anti-national values and that the gathering would expect the participation of “Syed Shal Geelani or Meer Waiz Umar Farukh”.
Tajinder Pal Singh Bagga also threatened that the Police would be responsible for anything “unpleasent” [sic] happening, if they would allow the event to take place. On his Facebook page, he incited people to gather outside the venue with eggs, tomatoes, shoes and black paint to teach the allegedly “anti-Indians and stone-pelters” a “lesson”. This was not a perceived threat since there were several people who responded positively on Facebook in support of such actions..
Bhagat Singh Kranti Sena is the same group that claimed responsibility for the physical assault on Prashant Bhushan, a well known human rights lawyer, for exercising his freedom of speech and expression.
These threats and untrue claims forced the organisers to suspend the event at the original venue in the interest of avoiding any possible form of violence – an occurrence that would have contradicted the very nature of Pause: In Times of Conflict. K. K Foundation and Public Charitable Trust – which is in no way connected to the conceptualisation or the organisation of the event – supported this decision. Members of rafiki were subjected to preliminary investigations by the police and related investigating agencies as a result of the suspicion generated by these false allegations.
Despite the threats, Inder Salim managed to present his performance in the context of Theatre for Democracy an event which coincidentally took place in the city on the same day at the Institute of Agricultural Technologists, Bangalore.
With the present statement, the organisers of the event declare that the allegations made by Tajinder Pal Singh Bagga of Bhagat Singh Kranti Sena are false and malicious and resulted in spreading rumours and misinformation on the nature of Pause. By threatening an event aimed at the promotion of peaceful dialogue, Bhagat Singh Kranti Sena seems to have betrayed explicit anti-national and anti-social sentiments. The organisers denounce the actions of Tajinder Pal Singh Bagga of Bhagat Singh Kranti Sena as intimidating and as a serious threat to collective freedom of speech and expression.
This statement is endorsed by maraa and rafiki.