A popular inter-college theatre competition in Pune has barred plays on “sensitive” topics such as the Babri Masjid, Article 370, and “Hindu-Muslim” matters, PTI reported on Wednesday. The “Firodiya Karandak” contest began 45 years ago and is held every year. Its next edition will take place in February 2020.

“To maintain social harmony and law and order, the organisers, from this year, have decided not to permit entries with sensitive subjects like Hindu-Muslim, Jammu and Kashmir, Article 370, India-Pakistan, Ram Mandir and Babri Masjid or the subjects that comment on any caste or religion,” said one of the rules of the contest, announced on Wednesday.

The organisers said that a group that presents a play on any such subject would be disqualified.

Ajinkya Kulkarni, the chief organiser of the competition, told PTI: “Being too young and amateur, participants do not have the knowledge and the depth required to handle such sensitive issues. Students are unaware of consequences if something unwarranted is said on this platform, which has a certain legacy, and as organisers the responsibility lies with us.”

Kulkarni said that the rules do not forbid plays from mentioning a particular religion, but “it must not create ill-feelings against any religion”. He said the contest is a platform for showcasing artistic talent and not political leanings.

“In the last three or four years, we saw that participants came with subjects which have been done to death, commenting on religious and caste lines,” he said. “My question to students is, are farmer suicides, drought, economy, unemployment, quality of education not current issues? Why only subjects with comment on religion and caste interest them?”

Kulkarni claimed that forbidding a few “sensitive” topics was not a curtailment of the freedom of expression.