Two plays, based on the life of famous Urdu writer Saadat Hasan Manto, by Pakistani theatre groups at the ongoing “Bharat Rang Mahotsav” here have become the latest casualty of the flare-up of tensions between the two countries.

The National School of Drama, which organises the annual international festival, on Thursday announced that plays of NAPA Repertory Theatre and Ajoka have been cancelled.

NSD chairperson Amal Allana said “Mantorama” and “Kaun Hai Yeh Gustakh,” scheduled to be staged on Thursday and Saturday respectively, stood cancelled as the Culture Ministry, which manages the affairs of the NSD, had cited law and order problems.

Extremely sad

“It is an administrative issue. We are a government institution. The issue is no longer in our jurisdiction. We cannot provide adequate security. I am extremely sad with this decision.”

The NSD chairperson said the step was taken as a precaution. “Our other shows would go on as usual.”

Describing the decision to cancel his show as sad news, Zain Ahmed of NAPA Repertory Theatre said his group was to perform in Delhi for the third time at the Bharat Rang Mahotsav.

“We always get a good response and had put in lot of preparation for the show. In a way the cancellation reflects Manto’s life as he too was not allowed to express his views. We were to stage ‘Mantorama’ based on his life and short stories.”

Eminent theatre practitioner Madeeha Gauhar too was taken aback by the cancellation. Staging of the show in Jaipur on January 16 was also cancelled at the last minute due to security issues.

“News is shocking”

“The news is upsetting and shocking. For creative persons like us who are working round-the-clock to sustain the peace process it was important that the NSD gave us the green signal. Even if a handful of people had gathered outside the auditorium, I am sure the police could have taken care of them. We cannot compare the situation in Delhi to Pakistan where bombs are taking innocent lives,” Madeeha said.

Since both countries were organising year-long festivities to mark the centenary of Manto, whose sensitive depiction of the plight of people caught in sectarian violence during Partition had won the hearts of millions of readers in the sub-continent, it was important that the plays were staged.

Noting that atmosphere in both countries had vitiated due to border skirmishes and killing of soldiers of both countries, Madeeha said the peace process had now taken a backseat.

“Our Foreign Minister Hina Rabani Khar has proposed peace talks with her Indian counterpart. I think India must talk and settle this issue. Both countries have invested so much on the peace process. Similarly, it was not easy for our artistes to get the paperwork done and get visas.”