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Students Arrested in Bengaluru over ‘Insensitive’ Skit on B R Ambedkar

During the zero hour in the state Assembly, JD(S) MLA from Mandya district, Dr K Annadani, demanded that the ‘deemed university’ status of Jain University be withdrawn.


Nine persons, including the director of the Centre for Management Studies (CMS) at Jain University, have been arrested over a skit on Dr B R Ambedkar. The skit was reportedly performed on February 8 at the Nimhans Convention Centre in Bengaluru. Shortly after, clips of the play began circulating on social media. Following demands for action, the police registered an FIR at the Siddapura Police Station on February 10, under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. Other sections include IPC Section 153A (promoting enmity between groups), Section 149 (unlawful assembly), and Section 295A (outraging religious feelings).

The skit was part of a ‘mad-ads’ event where contestants had to perform a humorous advertisement for a fictitious (or real) product. The students in this skit had chosen ‘beer Ambedkar’ and performed lines such as “why be a Dalit when you can be ‘the lit’?” Lit is slang which can also mean ‘intoxication’. The skit portrayed Ambedkar in different scenarios and attempted to generate humour through the use of puns. A part of the skit shows him going on a date with a woman but finding that she wouldn’t let him eat from the same plate. The narrator goes on, “he tried to join the army, there also he couldn’t become general (sic).”

According to a police official, seven students and two staff members (Jain University) were arrested on February 14. The arrested students are part of a theatre group from CMS called, ‘Delroys Boys’. In the heavily edited clip, the crowd can be heard cheering for the punchlines and according to a recent news report, the skit won first place when it was performed at another institute. The police source confirmed that the skit has been performed at least twice so far. It must be noted that only the edited skit clips have been circulated, not the entire skit.

On February 12, the NSUI held protests outside Jain University and blackened the nameplate of the institution. During the Assembly’s zero hour, JD(S) MLA from Mandya district, Dr K Annadani, demanded that the institution's ‘deemed university’ status be withdrawn. On February 15, Dalit leaders in Bengaluru protested at Bangalore University. It was organised by the ‘Self-respecting Postgraduates’ and Research Scholars’ Association’.

B Mohan, president of Praja Parivartane Vedike, was invited to speak at the protest. Speaking to NewsClick over the phone, he said that freedom of expression does not allow you to mock Dr B R Ambedkar. Speaking to NewsClick, he said, “Until 1935, everyone in India did not have the right to vote. Only landlords, graduates and Kings were allowed to vote in the elections. Even the queens could not vote. It is due to Dr Ambedkar’s arguments during the roundtable conferences that ensured voting rights were extended to the public (through the Government of India Act, 1935). The students of Jain University should learn history before mocking a person like Ambedkar.”

The FIR has been filed at the Siddapura Police Station in Bengaluru. The date of the next hearing is February 20.

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