Members of Hindutva group Bajrang Dal on Sunday night stopped a play that was being staged with Muslim characters in Karnataka’s Shivamogga district, alleging that it had a “love jihad angle”, The Telegraph reported.

“Love jihad” is a conspiracy theory espoused by Hindutva supremacists, who allege that it involves Muslim men forcibly converting Hindu women to Islam through marriage.

Rangabelaku, a theatre group in Shivamogga, was staging writer and lyricist Jayant Kaikini’s Jategiruvana Chandira at a marriage hall belonging to Veerashaivas in Anavatti. The play is a Kannada adaptation of Fiddler on the Roof by Broadway musical theatre writer Joseph Stein.

The Veerashaiva, an orthodox Shaivite community, are well represented in Karnataka’s Sangh Parivar outfits.

In the Kannada adaptation of Kaikini’s play, Jewish characters have been replaced with Muslim ones. The narrative, though, remains the same as the 1971 musical revolving around a poor father with three daughters of marriageable age.

Kotrappa G Hiremagadi, a senior member of the Rangabelaku team, told The Telegraph that Bajrang Dal members were against the play as it had “Muslim characters wearing skull caps and the hijab”.

As the play was in its last scene, the members of the Hindutva outfit barged into the hall and forced the audience to leave, reported The Hindu.

The Hindutva supremacists shouted “Bharat Mata ki jai” slogans, Hiremagadi said. “They threatened to occupy the stage and forced us to switch off the stage lights, ignoring my pleas to allow us to finish the last scene,” he added.

The theatre group member said that the play has been staged across Karnataka since the 1990s without ever causing any controversy.

“This is the biggest shock of my theatre career,” he added. “We staged the same play in Shivamogga city on June 16 without any issues. The audience of more than 800 stood up and applauded the play. Even yesterday [Sunday], the play was going really well with about 300 people in the hall until the disruption.”

Bajrang Dal state coordinator Raghu Sakleshpura told The Telegraph that a part in the play showing a Hindu boy marrying a Muslim girl will “send a wrong signal to the community”.

Responding to this, Hiremagadi said the scene only “signifies communal amity”.

Anavatti Police Station Sub-Inspector Rajeev Reddy said the play was stopped midway before law enforcement officials could arrive at the scene.

Hiremagadi said that he would not file a police complaint about the disruption “as there is no point doing so”.

Campaigns targeting Muslims in Karnataka

For months now, Hindutva groups in Karnataka have launched several campaigns targeting Muslims, and engaged in violence against them.

In April, a group of Hindu supremacists had vandalised stalls owned by Muslims near a temple in Dharwad district. The incident was part of a campaign of Hindutva organisations objecting to Muslims setting up stalls near temples.

In January, Hindutva group members had objected to students wearing hijabs in schools and colleges. Some Hindu students had started a coordinated campaign to wear saffron scarves to class in order to force colleges to ban the hijab.

On February 5, the Karnataka government had banned clothes that “disturb equality, integrity and public order” in educational institutions. On March 15, the Karnataka High Court upheld the government order and ruled that wearing hijab was not essential to Islam.