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Freedom of Speech?

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Ok, this is a contraversial one, and before anyone takes this in any way personally, i'd like to say that im just playing Devils Advocate here.. But i'd be interested in hearing your views on the following:

Sikhism, from my admittedly very limited understanding, is a religion that has, amongst its countless other qualities, a strong slant towards humanity and upholding Human Rights.

Amongst that, there lies freedom of choice and freedom of speech. We are given the guidlines of how to live, but these are not forced on anybody. For example, when the 40 Mukte said they wanted to leave Guru Gobind Singh Ji's Khalsa, they were allowed to go (the fact that they came back is another issue).

So we have freedom of choice and freedom of speech. Our Gurus went so far as to lay down their lives, go to war, lose their families etc to face down those who would impose their thoughts and beleifs on others by force...

So here comes the Contraversial bit:

This play that caused such a huge fuss in Birmingham, Behzti or whatever it was called. I totally disagree with such a negative depiction of the Gurdwara envioroment, and yes im as offended as anyone else by the content and the context of the play. But, is it not the playwrites God Given right to express herself however she chooses?

And before someone says that we shouldnt let anyone disrespect our faith (I agree Wholeheartedly that we should object to such things), is it not our duty as a faith to stand up and object to anything thats hurtful to anybody?

We dont kick up a fuss when there are shows/movies that make fun, or take creative liberties with the scriptures of Christianity or the Church in general (Dogma, Father Ted, The Pope Must Die, The Devils Advocate, End of Days, Life of Brian, the list is endless).. Or Islam (not that they need any help, they shot the guy who made an objectionable art house film focused on Islam)... Or Hinduism (I'm not even gonna start coz theres so much of it) or any other faith for that matter. So isnt being up in arms now in some ways hypocritical?

And more importantly than that, rather than calming things down and showing that we're not what was depicted/described, we've bought ourselves a whole load of bad press from it! Pick up any newspaper that covers the story and you'll see..

the play has gained notoriety, the playwrite has gone into hiding and her situation is being compared to one Salman Rushdie by the press... and naturally we're being labled fundamentalist barbarians :bling:

Have we actually acheived anything positive through all this? and are we behaving as we should be from a Dharmic perspective?

Your Thoughts?

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i was tuned into talksport yesterday and they kept debating about this play

i understand how important freedom of speech is..

as a artist i myself would not want to limit what my work is about...on the other hand i wouldnt make something that would be likely 2 offend anybody....

i dont understand what the protestors achieved in smashing up theatre equipment though... anyways the play is not true we as sikhs have nothing to hide... this is not the first time that shots have been taken against sikhs....

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i think the author of the play does have the freedom to speech just as the protesters have the freedom to protest. The only unfortunate thing was that it turned a little violent on saturday. However the media has gone on to falsely label the whole sikh community when i think very few people were involved in the criminal damage.

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I posted this in Orchids' post in the Anti-Sikh Propoganda section (copy &paste):

If someone is opposed to the play then please protest peacefully. If everyone is so concerned that the play will harm our image, I think it was just hurt more by the "violence" outside than it could have been by the play. Most people know fiction, ie the play, but if you get violent that is real.

Also recognize that as offensive as the play may be she is whithin her legal rights have it on show. You cannot legally stop this. However you can organize peacefull protests to demonstrate you don't agree/support this. So our "image" won't look so bad. I think that is what the intention should be. Just recognize that more "harm" has been caused to the Sikh community through the death threats on her, and the "violence" than most probably would have been caused by the play.

So all of you don't be so damn fanatical...Have you ever seen programming bashing Christians? Of course, but most people know Christians aren't like that....Now it is up to Sikhs through peaceful means to show that we aren't like the play shows us to be. Easier for Christians cause they are the majority, but it is essentially the same idea. Write intelligent editorials to the papers. Do anything, just don't be stupid about it.

In multicultural countries, the State’s reasonable laws take precedence on all issues ( I say reasonable because France's Turban ban is not a reasonable law, and has nothing to do with upholding democratic ideals. They want to be more secular, but don't understand that secularism denotes neutrality.)

If legally Christians can be bashed, etc..then so can Sikhs. Now it is up to us to through peaceful means that we are not like that. You may not like this, but this is life if you want to stay in a multicultural country. If you expect other people to bend a little for you, then you should bend a little for them (Called Compromise).

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orchids paji u said...

i think to judge the play one must at least see it..

well i havn't seen it but here is a bit of the script....

Below is the a scene from the play. It was front page on todays Independent newspaper. before you read I must state, it is very shocking, and disturbing. I personally felt deep disgust only half way through. I definately suggest people take time to calm themselves after reading it. The character Mr Sandhu is a hindu actor in a Sikhi Roop, and it is set inside the gurdwara.

Courtesy – The Independent newspaper – 21/12/04

An offensive act?

Min is the frumpy daughter of Balbir Kaur. In this extract from Behzti - Dishonour we find mother and daughter heading towards the local Sikh temple, the gurdwara, where Balbir is intent on marrying off Min with the help of Mr Sandhu. An apparently respectable local dignitary, he is reputed to keep a list of suitable local youths for the community's young women to wed. But he has a record of sexual abuse and rape. Two other women, Polly Dhodhar and Teetee Parmar, know of Mr Sandhu's vices but are complicit in concealing them whatever the cost to Min.

TEETEE: Here comes the bride.

MIN: Mother ...

BALBIR: Not now ducks, we're talking about you, not to you!

She chuckles. MIN approaches BALBIR.

MIN: Please mother...

TEETEE and POLLY notice MIN's bloodstained shalwar (trousers).

I don't quite know how to speak this ...

POLLY: Cursed girls and ladies do not come to God's house at that time of the month!

MR SANDHU approaches from the distance, but remains unseen by MIN and BALBIR.

BALBIR: For shitter's sake ... stupid girl!

MR SANDHU makes sure that POLLY and TEETEE see him.

POLLY: You should not have brought this disrespectful buffalo here, Bhanji.

TEETEE: Is it your intention to insult God?

POLLY: So much behzti. Nasty filthy dog!

TEETEE: Maybe it is up to us to teach her, Pollyji. For all our sakes.

MIN: But it's not my time.

TEETEE and POLLY drag MIN over so that she has her back to BALBIR. They show her mother the stain.

POLLY: Look at your dishonourable daughter, Bhanji.

TEETEE: Importing her dirty monthly blood into the gurdwara.

MR SANDHU discreetly exits. The ladies hold MIN firmly by each arm as if she were a criminal.

MIN: I haven't. Honest to God I haven't...

POLLY: Liar, liar pants on fire.

BALBIR: There must be some explanation ... perhaps she has the excitement because of the wedding ...

MIN: There's something mother ... I have to say. Privately.

BALBIR: A bride has no secrets from her bacholan.

MIN: What?

BALBIR: My friends are also your mothers.

TEETEE: There are no excuses for this unwelcome patch of red.

MIN breaks away from the ladies, in acute distress.

MIN: Please. I don't know what to do.

TEETEE: You are all muddled up.

MIN: No ... I'm not...

TEETEE and POLLY move towards MIN.

BALBIR: Keep your eyes on the medal, Maninder. That bronze disc you so merit.

POLLY: Shut up Bhanji. You leave this to us.

MIN moves away from the ladies.

MIN: Stay away from me, you ... cows.

BALBIR: Maninder!

POLLY: Such filth is coming out of her mouth.

BALBIR: Do not be hard on her ... please ... she does not understand the ways of usual people.

TEETEE: Then it is our duty to explain ... what is required of her under this roof.

The ladies move closer to MIN. Frightened, she turns away from them, but they carry on a menacing advance towards her. Suddenly she makes a run for it, but POLLY swiftly grabs her. They tussle.

BALBIR: Min ... we must realise ... it is occasionally necessary to follow a series of twisty side roads before one gets onto the motorway.

TEETEE joins POLLY and they start to beat and kick MIN. She cries out in pain. TEETEE drags her over to BALBIR who is close to tears.

TEETEE: Your turn Bhanji ...

BALBIR: It may appear harsh, but there are some ways of the world that you and I have to understand ...

BALBIR weakly slaps MIN round the face.

To adhere to ...

She slaps her again.

To get used to ...

There are shouts of "gundhee kuthi" (dirty <admin-profanity filter activated>) and "behsharam" (shameless) from the ladies as they continue to beat up MIN. MR SANDHU enters. TEETEE takes off her chooni (scarf) and gags MIN with it.

SANDHU: Stop this at once!

TEETEE and POLLY turn to face MR SANDHU.

We are not animals. Please try and maintain some decorum.

MIN remains on the floor, gagged, in a heap. MR SANDHU beholds her sadly.

All individuals make unforced errors.

BALBIR: Poor child, she has never recovered from the behzti of her father.

TEETEE: Must have inherited it.

POLLY: And you with your toilet trouble. None of it helps.

BALBIR: It doesn't.

SANDHU: I have a suggestion that may put a silver lining on this cloudy business.

MR SANDHU whispers in BALBIR's ear. TEETEE and POLLY bring MIN over to BALBIR and MR SANDHU.

MIN stands before them as though she is a pupil who has been sent to see the headmaster.

BALBIR: Dear Maninder, there is something ... there is the chance that something useful can emerge ...

MIN shakes her head vigorously.

All of a sudden my bladder feels full to the brim.

POLLY takes BALBIR's arm.

POLLY: Beerji, I fear her mummy's presence is fuelling her insolent manner.

SANDHU: Thank you for your kindness Polly Bhanji.

MIN makes desperate noises. POLLY leads BALBIR out. MIN'S getting increasingly upset. TEETEE unties the chooni.

MIN: (Screams) I want my mother!

TEETEE: First you have to apologise to Mr Sandhu.

MIN points at MR SANDHU.

MIN: He put himself inside me. (Indicates her <admin-profanity filter activated>) Here ... and he felt me ...

TEETEE: You are expected to say sorry.

MIN: He knows what he did to me. And so do you. And so does God. And you can break every bone in my body and defile me further and bury me here and we'll all still know. Because that's what happened. That's the truth.

TEETEE: (Shouts) Just say it!

MR SANDHU starts to cry.

SANDHU: What is a man to do? Then again she cannot help being a temptress. Perhaps I am at fault for being so easily enticed.

MIN attempts to run out, but TEETEE restrains her. There is a struggle which eventually TEETEE wins. She holds MIN around her neck. She drags her back to face MR SANDHU.

TEETEE: Say sorry you buffalo!

MIN: I won't.

TEETEE: Do it!

MIN: Never. I never will.

TEETEE: Does Balbir Bhanji like pain?

MIN: No... you cow... no!

TEETEE: Does she like to be hit and punched and scratched and all her clothes taken off?

TEETEE pulls her hair hard. MIN starts to cry.

One little word.

MIN is in agony.

My sons will <admin-profanity filter activated> her up the arse till she bleeds a river of blood.

MIN sobs.

Hurry up.

MIN: (Whispers) Sorry...

TEETEE releases MIN, she falls over in front of the desk. TEETEE goes over to SANDHU. Tearful and emotional, she spits on his feet.

TEETEE: She's yours.

TEETEE exits.

SANDHU: Are you hurt?

No response. MIN stares at the floor.

The first time there is bound to be some pain. It will get better.


You remind me of him so much. I was unable to help myself. I adore you, you see just as I loved your father. So damn madly. He was always scared of our passion. Embarrassed. And that's why he went the way he did. He broke my heart. But now he has come back to me, through you. (A beat) Would you like a sweetie?

MIN shakes her head.

Have this then.

He takes the BeeGees CD out of his pocket and hands it to her.

There is something I must ask you.

MIN looks up.

I just mentioned to your mother ... I was wondering if ... if ... you would like to marry me? When we are husband and wife there will be no need for all this.

Long silence.

MIN: (Slowly) You lied.

SANDHU: Why don't you take some time to think about it?

SANDHU goes to exit.

MIN: You've done this before haven't you?

SANDHU: Yes ... yes I have.

MR SANDHU exits. MIN beholds the CD. She attempts to hum 'Emotions' but cannot. The only noise that comes out of her mouth is atonal and off key. She tries to move about, but her stiff, tired body won't go anywhere or do anything. Exhausted, MIN slumps on to the floor. TEETEE comes back in.

TEETEE: (Gruff) Sometimes buffalo girl, you have to make a sacrifice. For the good of everyone, you realise?

No response.

You want some tea?

No response.

Sweet milky tea helps.

TEETEE goes to get the tea. BALBIR enters and approaches MIN.

BALBIR: Did he pop the question?

MIN nods.

And you are alright?

No response.

Was there something you wanted to tell me?

MIN: There's nothing.

BALBIR: Speak for shitter's sake.

MIN: Doesn't matter any more.

BALBIR: So you are happy to marry him?

No response. TEETEE comes back with a cup of tea for MIN.

I want you to be happy. Besides, he hasn't got much longer on this earth. You'll end up with the sort of bank balance that will attract a fine young specimen.

TEETEE eyes BALBIR coldly.

TEETEE: Quiet now Bhanji.

MIN: You have to sign Elvis' sheet mother.

BALBIR: I forgot about that shitter.

MIN takes the sheet out of her pocket. She struggles over to BALBIR and gives her the sheet, which BALBIR duly signs.

Yes, we will be alright now. Everything will be alright. You go and get things ready Maninder. I'll wait here.

MIN goes to exit. TEETEE holds out the cup of tea to her.

TEETEE: It's finished.

No response.

You'll be going home soon.

TEETEE reaches out to MIN. But MIN strikes her arm and the tea goes flying. MIN exits.

BALBIR: Forgive her, she has been a boil waiting to erupt.

TEETEE: She's braver than she looks.

BALBIR: Funny how things turn out. I, for one, was set on the list ... but such things do not allow for plain old-fashioned attraction. I didn't know she had it in her ... but perhaps she's more of a chip off the old block than I gave her credit for. Don't be perturbed by her demeanour. She's shocked I know, she's come over all strange... all because she can't believe her own bloddy bollocks. She came looking for a fish and caught a bloddy whale. Perhaps I'll be the one asking my son-in-law for his list.

TEETEE: (Flat) There is no list.


TEETEE: No <admin-profanity filter activated> list.

BALBIR: (Shocked) Bhanji?

TEETEE: You stupid old cow.

BALBIR: Of course there is a list. Mr Sandhu told me ... he talked to me ...

TEETEE: Did he ever show it to you?


TEETEE: Did you ever ask to see it?

BALBIR shakes her head.

BALBIR: You're being silly.

TEETEE: It doesn't exist.

BALBIR: You're lying ... Teetee?

No response. BALBIR's getting more agitated.

Why would he say there was one when there wasn't?

What reason?

TEETEE: Why do you think?

BALBIR is paralysed with shock.

So that girls go up and see him. So he can force them.

And boys sometimes. He likes to rape people.

BALBIR: No he wouldn't ... he would never do that ... you said he is a gentleman...

TEETEE: I didn't.

BALBIR: You know he is ... we all know him ...

TEETEE: He did it to your girl.

BALBIR: You bloody liar. He loves Min and she will grow to love him. They fancy each other.

TEETEE: (Screams) Is that what you think of your daughter, you sick <admin-profanity filter activated>?

BALBIR: Why are you doing this Teetee? Why are you saying such evilness?

TEETEE: It's true.

BALBIR: How do you know?

TEETEE: (Flat) Because he did it to me.

BALBIR takes this in.

Right over there.

TEETEE points to a corner.

BALBIR: No ... no ... this is not ... is not feasible ... you are trying to trick me and confuse me ...

TEETEE isn't listening. She points again. She speaks in a matter of fact fashion.

TEETEE: They stripped me first and covered my mouth. Then he bent me over and pulled my hair. He was young then so he had better control. Your Mr Sandhu went inside me and took what was human out of my body. My mother wept salty tears while she watched. Afterwards she beat me till I could not feel my arms or legs. Then she turned to me and said, now you are a woman, a lady. Now you are on your own, behsharam.

BALBIR: I told her to go in because he said there was a list.

TEETEE: They must have left you out Bhanji.

BALBIR: So you ... you stood by ... while I sent my Min ...

TEETEE: Yes...

BALBIR: But you ... you beat her ... you said she was at fault ...

TEETEE: I do my duty

BALBIR: You made me hit her.

TEETEE: You did that yourself.

BALBIR lunges at TEETEE. She misses her pathetically and lands on the floor.

BALBIR: (Fearful) It couldn't happen ... not before my eyes ... like this ...

TEETEE: It just did.

BALBIR: You let it ... you made it ...

TEETEE: I tried to warn you Bhanji.

BALBIR: You made me...

TEETEE: That's what passes.

BALBIR becomes breathless, it's as if she is having a panic attack.

I am sorry you were not aware.

TEETEE gets up to exit. Distressed, BALBIR shouts after her.

BALBIR: Where are you going?

TEETEE: Home. In a little while.

BALBIR: (Screams vehemently) This business isn't finished. You don't do that to my girl ... and just go home ... you don't ... you can't ...

TEETEE stands at exit. BALBIR crumbles.

(Despairing) What will happen to her now?

TEETEE: (Cold) Same as the rest of us ...

TEETEE exits. BALBIR breaks down. She cries out through her tears.

BALBIR: No. Never... never!

BALBIR sobs her heart out.

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I have been watching all the developments very closely on this issue.

I think the damage of rep building is understandable after days of peaceful protest and being frustated...Thats no biggie. Unfortunately, this biased media took full advantage of this..made a huge deal of it.

But passing on death threats on gurpreet and person who offered to show when rep refused it was totally out of order. Sikhs communities have allowed bunch of morons/fanatics to pass on death threat and funny thing is there was no "offical statement on behalf of gurdwaras" condemning this act.

All this hundreds years of hard work of our elders to have an respected image in the community all went in vain just by this act "sending death threats".

After such a damage we had golden oppurtunity when Gurdwara's were threated by people ..that they going to bomb the gurdwara's. We failed to take advantage of this golden oppurtunity and get media involved in this too...so people know that we don't only have fanatics but other side have fanatics too.

Result - Even though we managed to stop the show and some may think its a win suitation...make no mistake people...we have done more damage to ourselves than good..thats for sure.

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i agree more damage has been done. people from the sikh community have condemned the violence but the british media in their usual impartial manner have refused to report this.

btw, who has threatened to bomb gurudwaras? can u post a link or sumthing.


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Great Article in Canadian Famous Magazine.

source: http://www.macleans.ca/culture/news/showne...ontent=e122319A

Controversy over Sikh drama highlights religious-secular split in Britain


LONDON (AP) - A cancelled play, a damaged theatre, a playwright in hiding.

The violent clash of views sparked by a dark comedy depicting rape and murder in a Sikh temple shows that art and religion are still often failing to understand each other.

Some British Sikhs feel Behzti, or Dishonor, is offensive to their religion - an opinion shared by a Roman Catholic archbishop who said the play "demeans the sacred place of every religion." Artists and civil libertarians fear the devout are growing bolder in attempts to silence "offensive" artwork, and claim government moves to ban religious hatred will make things worse.

"The causing of offence is part of our business," said Nicholas Hytner, artistic director of the National Theatre.

"I don't think people have the right not to be offended by works of the imagination," he told the British Broadcasting Corp.

On Monday the Birmingham Repertory Theatre cancelled its run of Behzti after a violent protest by members of the Sikh community. Several police officers were injured and three people arrested after a small group within a 400-strong demonstration tried to storm the theatre, causing thousands of dollars worth of damage.

Birmingham Rep said it had reluctantly scrapped the play because it could not guarantee the safety of audiences and staff. Playwright Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti is reportedly in hiding after receiving death threats.

Sikh leaders say the play, which depicts acts of sexual abuse and murder in a fictional Gurdwara, or Sikh temple, demeaned their religion. They applauded the theatre's decision.

But artists and civil libertarians were dismayed. More than 700 actors, directors, writers, composers and academics - including actors Prunella Scales and Timothy West, poet laureate Andrew Motion, playwright Michael Frayn and Monty Python comedian Terry Jones - signed an open letter in support of the play.

"It is a legitimate function of art to provoke debate and sometimes to express controversial ideas. ... Those who use violent means to silence it must be vigorously opposed and challenged, whatever our faith, belief or opinions," said the letter, published Thursday in The Guardian newspaper.

Reaction to the play is split not between Sikhs and the rest of the community, but between the devout of all faiths and the secular.

Behzti received good reviews and drew large, multiracial audiences that included many Sikhs. Many artists of South Asian origin have come to its defence.

Christian leaders, meanwhile, joined their Sikh counterparts in criticism. "Such a deliberate, even if fictional, violation of the sacred place of the Sikh religion demeans the sacred place of every religion. People of all faiths, therefore, will be offended," said Vincent Nichols, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Birmingham.

John Sentamu, the Anglican Bishop of Birmingham, agreed that the play "causes the greatest offence to most people."

Works of art with religious themes often touch a nerve.

Terrence McNally's play Corpus Christi, which depicts Jesus as a gay man, drew protests by Roman Catholic groups when it debuted on Broadway in 1998. There were death threats against McNally when it played London in 1999.

Earlier this year the BBC pulled Popetown, a satirical animated series set in the Vatican, after complaints from Catholics.

The Vatican complained about a Nativity scene at Madame Tussauds wax museum that depicted soccer star David Beckham and his pop star wife Victoria as the parents of Jesus. It was removed after being damaged in an attack by a visitor.

In 1989, angry Muslim demonstrators burned copies of Salman Rushdie's novel The Satanic Verses, which they said blasphemed the prophet Mohammed. Iran's Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued an edict calling for Rushdie's death, and the author spent years in hiding under tight security.

Britain has a long tradition of free speech, but the legal picture is murky. There is a law against blasphemy, but it applies only to the Christian faith, and has not been used successfully since 1979.

The government has proposed new legislation that would make inciting religious hatred a crime punishable by up to seven years in prison. The government says free speech will be protected under the law, but civil libertarians worry it will embolden protesters.

"This legislation might seem to endorse the kind of violence and intimidation we've seen in Birmingham," said the National Theatre's Hytner.

"It's only through the strongly and passionately expressed clash of ideas and beliefs that we have any hope at all of reaching an accommodation with each other," he added.

But Mohan Singh, spokesman for the Guru Nanak temple in Birmingham, said there must be limits to free speech.

"Maybe 5,000 people would have seen this play over the run. Are you going to upset 600,000 Sikhs in Britain and maybe 20 million outside the U.K. for that?" he said. "Religion is a very sensitive issue and you should be extremely careful."

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Wahe guru ji ka khalsa wahe guru ji ke fateh ,

I believe the Gurprit Kaur Bhatti should have deeply thought about the consequences her play would have on society before she wrote it , and then re-inacted it .

One question I have , is that the play she wrote , is it fiction or is it reality?

Did 'acts of rape / sex abuse ' happen to someone she knows closely ?

or is it just her imagination ?

If so , then why right a damn play about it ?

why make money out of it ?

why not seek justice by proper legal methods ? why not disgrace the person/persons involved ?

Talking about freedom of speech , 'yes up to a point' , there are limits and boundaries we must keep within.

If you look at the sikh history , the 9th guru siri guru tegh bahadur ji , gave his life so that hindustan can be free of oppression , so its not that sikhs don't know about freedom of speach , its about freedom of speach for just cause to help other humans who don't have a voice , its not about , ' oh let me offend , someones beleifs and then I can say I have the right of freedom of speech '.

kema dha jachuck hai

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why didnt the sikhs just right a play showing the positive effects thats a gurdwara can have on a community... then stand outside the theatre and sell the tickets ?

they could have called it 'izat'. it would propbably have sold twice as much, then they could have donated the money to pingalwara.

Kind regards


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why didnt the sikhs just right a play showing the positive effects thats a gurdwara can have on a community... then stand outside the theatre and sell the tickets ?

they could have called it 'izat'. it would propbably have sold twice as much, then they could have donated the money to pingalwara.

Kind regards


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