SAHMAT statement on 22 June 2005 to condemn Delhi Police denying permission to
Asmita Theatre group to perform.

We protest the arbitrary and authoritarian action of the Delhi Police in denying permission to Asmita, a leading heatre group of the capital, to perform their new play, Jinnah. Whatever the stated purpose and claim of Delhi Police may be, this is nothing short of censorship. We wish to state that the very act of the Delhi Police asking the theatre group to furnish the script of the play is beyond their scope of power. The Delhi Police is not a Censor Board,  nor does it have the power to dictate to theatre groups what to include in their playscripts. No one had lodged a formal, written complaint with the police about the play. No one had even gone to Delhi Police with any objection.  Nor has the play led to any disturbance of public order and peace.

In such a situation, there was no reason whatsoever  for the police to ask to be shown the script, and then deny permission to the  group to perform the play. In fact,  even after the group had furnished the script -- which, by law, it is under no obligation to do it is beyond belief  that it took Delhi Police six days to make up their mind that the script was 'illegible'.



To say, as Delhi Police officials have said in the press, that permission has only been 'deferred' and not denied, is specious.

All theatre groups in the capital face enormous red tape, delays, and a notoriously unsympathetic bureaucratic and police set up every time a play has to be mounted. Theatre groups have, often enough in the past, approached various authorities to evolve systems that would make seeking permission for performance simpler. What has happened, however, seems to be the opposite, going by the current instance: police authorities have overstepped their bounds in preventing a leading theatre group that mounts hundreds of shows a year from performing their latest play.

We demand that Delhi Police immediately revoke their arbitrary and highly authoritarian decision to not allow performance of the play.

M.K.Raina, Moloyshree Hashmi, N.K.Sharma