" Art and Culture Minister Dayanand Mandrekar, however, rejected the accusations and claimed there was no attempt by his ministry to rein in artistes."
Panaji, Aug 4 - Opposition legislators as well as one from Goa's ruling BJP Monday hit out at the state art and culture ministry for trying to stifle Konkani theatre-artistes by stopping them from criticising government, ministers, MLAs, VIPS during public performances. The government denied the charge.

Opposition legislator Vijai Sardesai accused the Bharatiya Janata Party-led coalition government of trying to impose an undeclared emergency in the state, by trying to intimidate NGOs, political opposition and now artistes from the local Konkani theatre, also called tiatr.

Taking on the government over a controversial undertaking form, issued by the Ravindra Bhavan, which is required to be duly filled up by organisers of Konkani theatre, Sardesai said: You (treasury benches) all fought against the Emergency and now you are strangling freedom of expression.

Ravindra Bhavan is a state government-promoted centre of the arts in Margao town, 35 km from Panaji.

On one side, you are giving grants to 'tiatrists' (theatre artistes) and on the other side you ask them to give such undertakings, he said.

Sardesai quoted from the form which said: No criticism of the government ministers, MLAs, VIPS shall be made during the onstage performance at the Ravindra Bhavan in Margao; future booking of the auditorium or other facilities at Ravindra Bhavan, Margao, may not be allowed.

For thousands of Goan men women, families, friends, especially Christians, tiatr, which owes its origin to Italian operettas, is still one of the most loved forms of live entertainment. Traditional tiatr is always presented in seven acts, interspersed with songs in each act.

BJP member Vishnu Wagh supported Sardesai and asked the art and culture ministry to do away with the draconian clause in the undertaking because it was in violation of the right to freedom of expression enshrined in the constitution.

Tiatr also has a social context. Onstage, tiatr songs and actors often comment and discuss about what's happening around them. They criticise too and sometimes they cross the line. If they criticise, we have laws to handle it, but why should a government fear criticism? Wagh said.

Sardesai claimed that the BJP-led coalition government was slowly trying to stifle all forms of opposition.

You are bringing a legislation to bring NGOs to book, a case has been filed against Leader of Opposition and now you are silencing tiatrists. This is an undeclared emergency, Sardesai said.

However, opposing the duo, treasury bench legislators Caitu D'Silva and Kiran Kandolkar alleged that a section of the tiatr industry was paid by politicians to attack their rivals.

Art and Culture Minister Dayanand Mandrekar, however, rejected the accusations and claimed there was no attempt by his ministry to rein in artistes.

There is no notification to the effect issued by the government, he said, adding that the form being quoted by Sardesai was prepared by the local authority at the Ravindra Bhavan.


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