Kerala Minister’s remark on cultural event sparked row: Theatre group office bearer

Kozhikode: An office bearer of a prominent Kerala theatre group, which staged a programme that allegedly depicted Muslims as extremists at the recently concluded state school arts festival here, said on Wednesday that the performance became a controversy following certain statements by Kerala Minister P A Mohammed Riyas.

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Kanakadas, an office bearer of Perambra-based MATHA, also said he was worried about what could be the “intention” or “target” of these discussions and debates regarding the programme.

“I am scared as to what could be their intention, their target. The police have asked me to be really careful. I have come to know that my profile and other details are being circulated in various social media groups,” he told a TV channel.

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He said that he believes the performance, on January 3, became such a big controversy after the statement by Riyas that there were attempts in the 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.

Kanakadas said that it was for the first time in his entire career that he was faced with such allegations.

“I have performed programmes for all political parties. I have portrayed various characters at CPI(M) organised events. That Sanghi connection or link that was not seen then, where is it coming from now? Actually I have been more close to CPI(M) than the Sangh Parivar,” he said.

A section of people had charged that the programme portrayed the Muslim community as extremists.

After the issue snowballed into a political controversy with the opposition Congress demanding an apology from Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, the Kerala government on Tuesday ordered a probe into the incident.

Kerala General Education Minister V Sivankutty instructed the Director of the Public Instructions (DPI) to probe the matter and submit a report in this regard in a week.

Kanakadas said he was not scared by the probe and instead, welcomed it.

“However, did the Minister or those criticising the programme not see the entire costume? The head gear was not the only thing worn by the artiste. The costume has to be seen as a whole,” he said.

Meanwhile, the BJP reiterated its recent criticism of the State government for considering excluding the group from future events of the Education Department.

BJP state president K Surendran, speaking to reporters, said that the present controversy was being created to divert attention from the various alleged irregularities and illegalities being committed by the ruling Left front in the State.

He said that a party which waxes eloquent about freedom of expression was now considering banning a performance group.

The controversial musical programme, which was performed after the inauguration of the State School Youth festival last week, depicted the Indian Army apprehending a man sporting a Keffiyeh, a traditional Arab headgear worn by men.

Kanakadas, earlier, had claimed that it was Tourism Minister Riyas who had first congratulated them after the event.

Regarding the controversial performance, he had said that it was a mistake by a person who was not a regular artiste of the group and not intentional.

The man had worn the particular cloth on his head following instruction not to come in plain costume, he had said.

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 bad light during the musical programme.

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