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'Threat to Freedom of Expression': Theatre Association Condemns Police Warning to Singer

© Photo : YouTube/@nehafolksingerA screenshot of Bhojpuri folk singer Neha Singh Rathore from her song 'UP Mein Ka Ba'
A screenshot of Bhojpuri folk singer Neha Singh Rathore from her song 'UP Mein Ka Ba'   - Sputnik India, 1920, 24.02.2023
Neha Singh Rathore's song 'UP Mein Ka Ba season 2' takes the Uttar Pradesh state government to task about a mother and a daughter whose house was demolished and who were allegedly burnt to death.
The Indian People's Theatre Association (IPTA) has come forward in support of Bhojpuri folk singer, Neha Singh Rathore, and urged the Uttar Pradesh (UP) police to withdraw the notice accusing the singer of allegedly inciting hate among the public with her song 'UP Mein Ka Ba'.
In her song, the singer hauls the UP government over the coals about the death of a 45-year-old woman, identified as Pramila Dixit, and her daughter, Neha, 20, who died in a fire on 13 February during an anti-encroachment drive on government land in Madauli village in the Fatehpur district of Uttar Pradesh. Whereas the family alleged that cops set their hut ablaze when the women were inside, the local cops claim that the two women locked themselves in and set themselves on fire. Later the state police registered a case of murder against 13 people, including the subdivisional magistrate, the station house officer, and the bulldozer operator.
Calling it a threat to freedom of expression, the national general secretary of the IPTA, Rakesh Veda, told the Indian news agency on Friday that Uttar Pradesh police are intimidating the singer and her family.
The IPTA committee, along with its state and district units, is planning to organize solidarity programs and send memorandums to the state government to withdraw the notice.
Uttar Pradesh police issued a legal notice to the singer on Tuesday and gave her three days to justify what they consider was a song creating enmity and tension in society.
Although Rathore has yet to respond to the notice, she spoke to Indian media and said that it is her constitutional right to freedom of speech and expression, and being a citizen of a democratic country, she feels responsible to question the government via the medium of folk music.
However, she added that though she has continued to take on the government over several issues, she has had no response from the government and only received warnings for "inciting hate".
Rathore, who lives with her husband Himanshu at his place of work - an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) coaching centre - has accused the police of intimidating them and their family in Uttar Pradesh state's Kanpur Dehat district.
Rathore has also accused Uttar Pradesh police of trying to track her down by false means.
Himanshu told Indian media that the notice was first sent to his father’s house in Ambedkar Nagar in Delhi, sparking commotion in the neighborhood.
He added that the next day, before getting the legal notice, a woman called him and asked him to meet for guidance about her civil service examinations. When he refused, the woman again called and said that she was from the Kanpur Dehat police, and they had come to serve the notice.