This year, no Ramlila in Muzaffarnagar

The Muzaffarnagar riots have another casualty — the annual Ramlila that is held in almost all towns and villages of the district.
For the first time this year, majority of the programmes for Ramlila have been cancelled and over 30 groups of artists are waiting in vain.
“The situation and the prevailing atmosphere do not allow us to take the risk of organising the Ramlila here. We had paid `2 lakhs as advance to the troupe but we are cancelling the programme. This will lead to huge losses because we had made other booking for light and sound as well but it is better to be safe than sorry later,” said Kripa Shankar Tyagi, one of the village elders in a village in Shamli district.
Performing artists have already arrived in Muzaffarnagar from states like Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan but they are simply biding their time.
“We did not take other bookings because we have been coming here for years and suddenly we are told that the Ram Lila will not be staged this year. We have nowhere to go and we are just hoping against hope that we will get some alternate booking in the adjoining districts,” said Ravi Kumar who is leading a group of about 215 artists from Rajasthan.
“We will wait for another few days and if nothing positive happens, we will return to our homes in Bharatpur,” he said.
Ram Chandar Baliyan, a senior citizen from Muzaffarnagar, explained the situation and said, “We cannot guarantee the safety of these artists and the district administration is also not too keen on getting these events organised. Who will be responsible for any untoward incident takes place during Ramlila?” In Muzaffarnagar alone, the annual Ramlila is held in about 45 places and is usually an example of communal harmony with Muslims playing important characters like Dasrath and Ravan in the programmes.
“I have been playing the roles of Ravan and Dasrath in the Ram Lila since 2002 and a great deal of appreciation has come my way. But in the prevailing circumstances, my family has asked me not to participate in the Ramlila. I am upset because the Ramlila had become a part of my life,” said Asgar Ali of Shamli.
district. A senior official in Muzaffarnagar, however, denied that there was any ban on Ramlila being staged but said that it was “advisable” not to hold public events with connected to a particular religion.
“The wounds are still raw and good sense seems to have prevailed on the organisers. We do not want fresh trouble in the district,” said the official who declined to be identified.

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