Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Safdar Hashmi

On 1 January 1989, Safdar Hashmi and his comrades in Jana Natya Manch were performing a street play in an industrial township just outside Delhi. Municipal elections were due in Uttar Pradesh, after a gap of more than a decade. The performance was at Jhandapur, where one of the candidates in the election was Mukesh Sharma, a local factory owner-cum-small time goon, close to the then ruling party, the Congress (I). I remember how the bright winter sun lit the brick-paved streets of Jhandapur that Sunday morning.

As Mukesh Sharma's procession arrived where the play was on, Safdar requested Sharma to take another route and come this way later. In response, the actors were attacked with sticks and iron rods. Safdar was singled out, his head bashed in, and left for dead. A factory worker, Ram Bahadur, suspected of giving refuge to leaders of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), was shot dead at point blank range.

Safdar, aged 34, died in hospital the following night. By then hundreds had gathered at the hospital in a spontaneous show of solidarity and protest. Fifteen thousand marched at his funeral on January 3, the largest funeral ever for a theatre artist in Delhi. Protest demonstrations swept the country, and several hundred thousand marched in dozens of cities and towns.

On January 4, less than 48 hours after his death, Moloyashree, Safdar's comrade, companion and wife, led the actors of Jana Natya Manch to the site of the attack and completed the disrupted performance. The play was called 'Halla Bol' ('Attack'), done in support of striking workers. The image of Moloyashree in performance, fist raised in quiet defiance on the spot where Safdar was felled, remains a stirring, inspiring image.more

Safdar's killing unleashed a wave of grief and rage in India. The funeral procession was a nine-mile-long serpent of artists, workers, students -- people from every fragment of a fragmented nation. The play that had been interrupted by his murder was performed on the first anniversary of his death in towns and cities throughout India. Safdar's wife, Moloyashree, was also a member of Jan Natya Manch, Safdar's theater troupe.

"Hashmi's triumph," one journalist wrote after his death, "was that he reached the people. Perhaps that is the one sin the political hoodlum will not forgive in an intellectual".more

from http://www.ramrahman.com/

It is pathetic that our judicial system took 14 years to convict the killers of safdar hashmi.

"The spontaneous protest after the murder led us to form the Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust (SAHMAT), an umbrella organisation of painters, writers, theatre-persons, film-makers who try to reconfigure cultural symbols in an activist manner," .more



in defiance to the heinous act of crime it was pathetic to see how long the indian judicial establishment took to punish the convicts henceforth i salute the spirit of safdar hashmi
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But the play is still on. Watch this interview with Moloyashree Hashmi, Secretary Jana Natya Manch.

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