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Eight students at IIT Bombay face fines of up to Rs 1.2 lakh per for their "derogatory" portrayal of the Ramayana in a play.

Image credit: additional resources.

MUMBAI: At least eight students from IIT-Bombay, some of whom are graduating and others are juniors, have been fined up to Rs 1.2 lakh for putting on a play called Raahovan on March 31 during the school's annual performing arts festival. Some students complained that the performance, which was largely based on the Ramayana, portrayed the main characters in a demeaning way.

According to a student, junior students have been forced to pay Rs 40,000 apiece and have been denied access to dorm facilities, while graduating students have been fined Rs 1.2 lakh each and will not be eligible for any gymkhana rewards. Following the allegations, the institute acted on the recommendations of a disciplinary action committee.

IIT-Bombay hosts the Performing Arts Festival, or PAF, every year as a cultural event. This year, it took place in March, and on March 31, the performance was presented at the campus outdoor theater. In the days that followed, a video showcasing play excerpts juxtaposed with Ramayana facts went viral, igniting a discussion over artistic liberty and offending religious sensibilities.

Although the institute received written complaints, one of the complainants informed TOI that the students had made a mockery of culture in the name of feminism and that the performance was disrespectful in many ways.

According to a social media account, the students had misused their right to academic freedom, and the university ought to set rules to make sure that, moving forward, no religion is made fun of on campus in the name of free speech.

Nonetheless, a number of students on campus argued that the severe punishment was inappropriate. According to a student, the play was well-received by the judges and audience and offered a feminist perspective on a tribal community.

Another student suggested that the institute provide an explanation for how the private paper regarding the action taken ended up on social media, despite the fact that the institute's administrators remained silent on the matter.