IIT-Bombay fines eight students up to Rs 1.2 lakh each for a ‘derogatory’ Ramayana play

At least eight students from IIT-Bombay have recently found themselves at the center of a storm. These students, some on the brink of graduation and others still juniors have been fined and face severe penalties for their involvement in a play, “Raahovan,” performed during the institute’s annual Performing Arts Festival (PAF) on March 31. The play, a modern interpretation of the Ramayana, has sparked considerable controversy, leading to fines of up to Rs 1.2 lakh for the graduating students and Rs 40,000 for the juniors, alongside other disciplinary measures. This article delves into the details of the incident, the resulting debate on artistic freedom, and the broader implications for IIT-Bombay.

Background of the Incident

The Performing Arts Festival, or PAF, is a highly anticipated annual cultural event at IIT-Bombay. Held every March, it showcases the creative talents of students through various performances, including dance, music, and theater. This year, the festival featured a play titled “Raahovan,” which aimed to present a feminist perspective on tribal society, drawing loose parallels to the Ramayana.

Details of the Play

“Raahovan” was intended to be a bold and thought-provoking piece. The play’s creators sought to explore themes of feminism and societal norms through a narrative mirrored the Ramayana, albeit with significant artistic liberties. However, certain portrayals in the play were perceived as disrespectful to the revered epic, leading to many complaints.

The Complaints and Allegations

The complaints against “Raahovan” were multifaceted. Critics argued that the play depicted key characters from the Ramayana in a derogatory manner, accusing the creators of mocking religious sentiments and cultural values. The complaints, lodged by a student body section, claimed that the play’s content was offensive and inappropriate for a public performance at an educational institution.

Disciplinary Actions Taken

In response to these complaints, the institute’s disciplinary action committee conducted an investigation and recommended severe penalties:

  • Graduating Students: Each graduating student involved in the play was fined Rs 1.2 lakh. Additionally, they were barred from receiving any recognition for gymkhana awards.
  • Junior Students: The junior students faced a fine of Rs 40,000 each and were debarred from hostel facilities for an unspecified period.

Reactions and Opinions

The disciplinary actions have elicited mixed reactions within the IIT-Bombay community. While some students and faculty members supported the penalties as necessary to uphold cultural respect, others felt the measures were excessively harsh. A significant portion of the student body voiced their dissent, arguing that the play was a legitimate exercise of artistic freedom and that the punishments stifled creative expression.

The Debate on Artistic Freedom

The incident has ignited a broader debate on the balance between artistic freedom and cultural sensitivity. Supporters of the play argue that art should challenge societal norms and provoke thought, while critics emphasize the importance of respecting religious and cultural sentiments. This tension is not new; similar controversies have arisen in the past, both in India and globally, where artistic works have clashed with traditional values.

Social Media and Public Response

A video clip of the play went viral shortly after the festival, amplifying the controversy. The video juxtaposed scenes from “Raahovan” with excerpts from the Ramayana, further polarizing opinions. Social media platforms became battlegrounds for heated debates, with hashtags and viral posts reflecting the divided sentiments of the public.

Impact on the Students Involved

The penalties have had significant repercussions for the students involved. Apart from the financial burden, the students have faced academic and personal setbacks. The graduating students, in particular, are grappling with the loss of recognition and opportunities that Gymkhana awards might have brought. Emotionally, the experience has been taxing, as the students navigate the fallout from the controversy.

Legal and Ethical Considerations

From a legal standpoint, the institute’s actions have raised questions about the extent to which educational institutions can penalize students for creative expression. Ethically, the case underscores the challenges of balancing institutional authority with individual rights to freedom of expression.

Future Implications for IIT-Bombay

This incident is likely to prompt IIT-Bombay to reconsider its policies regarding student performances and artistic expression. The institute may introduce clearer guidelines to prevent similar controversies in the future. Additionally, the long-term effects on campus culture could include a more cautious approach to creative projects.

Comparative Analysis

IIT-Bombay is not the first institution to face such dilemmas. Universities worldwide have grappled with similar issues, where student performances or artworks have sparked debates about freedom of expression. Comparing IIT-Bombay’s response to those of other institutions can provide valuable insights into different approaches to handling such sensitive matters.

Student Perspectives

Interviews with students involved in the play reveal a sense of frustration and disillusionment. They argue that their intention was not to offend but to provoke thought and discussion. Broader student body opinions reflect a divided stance, with some advocating for artistic freedom and others calling for greater respect for cultural norms.

Role of Media in Shaping Narratives

The media has played a crucial role in shaping public perception of the incident. Coverage by major news outlets and the viral spread of the video have influenced opinions and added pressure on the institute to take decisive action. The media’s role in escalating the issue highlights the power of information dissemination in contemporary society.


The controversy surrounding the play “Raahovan” at IIT-Bombay underscores the delicate balance between artistic freedom and cultural sensitivity. While the penalties imposed have sparked debate, they also highlight the need for clearer guidelines and policies in educational institutions. As IIT-Bombay navigates the aftermath, the incident serves as a poignant reminder of the complexities involved in fostering an environment that respects both creative expression and cultural values.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *