By A K Prabhakar

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of majority, it is time to pause and reflect” – Mark Twain

It is considerably convincing that if the quality of a nation’s progressive, democratic and intellectual health has to be determined, then one only needs to take into account and compare the ideological narratives (cultural and historical) that the nation have had so far to the narrative its leadership offers. There are narratives that retain political reasoning and therefore, one’s social-cultural health. And then, there are narratives that sow seeds of equality, critical reasoning, enlightenment and collective progressivism.

Asmita Theatre Group has now brought Hindu Code Bill. A play which reopens an astonishing account that defers starkly with narratives that claim India’s becoming through several stages. It stages politically essential questions such as:

“Is not the sense of majority, derived from traditional and conventional understanding, a political silence that makes us termites against our own potential (collective and individual)?”

“How is it wise to have a historical consciousness that disapproves any dialogue with history?”

“Should not political correctness, based on principles of critical and dialectical understanding of one’s own socio-political tendencies, precede one’s conclusion to agree and disagree, approve and disapprove, acknowledge and discard?”

and

“How crucially important it is to carry along legends and legacies that are found on principles of constant reformation of perspectives that live up to egalitarian progress?”

It is precisely within these concerns that one finds Asmita’s productions worth attending; since it has chosen not to conclude but to reopen discourses. It has unified courage, principles and theatre into a production that offers a scintillating journey through a well documented and factually consistent narration of the course which the Hindu Code Bill went through. The course where ‘not so eager’ Congress falls into silence, where the President and Speaker of the constituent assembly backed by traditional forces became abysmal winners, and the rebel for the cause, Dr.B.R. Ambedkar ended up with resignation (from cabinet, not from cause).

The play’s theme turns out to be an eternal one and two folded.

The first is: “Why should history be conceived without dialogue and why not resist its being selective, depending upon the ideologies of prevailing parties?”, and the second remains a consequence to the first one, that it is precisely in the repression of these narratives that India’s heritage of intellectual courage and egalitarian legacies becomes one of gaps and fissures.

When the play was staged on 6th December this year, it had the presence of people who came with a preconceived assessment on its material, to the point of discarding it straight away without watching it. But the last thing that followed the play was that of dialogue, sour but yet there. And that is where that play wins. It makes you have a dialogue, the only thing which remains decisive and indispensable for the sake of well configured future of our nation and nationalism.

A nationalist is one who is able to criticise his/her own prejudices, beliefs and notions. One who talks to his/her nation’s history instead of giving it a mute pilgrimage. Well, this is what Hindu Code Bill develops on the stage.

Don’t miss the play when it comes again.