Ranaghat, April 10: A theatre activist in Nadia’s Ranaghat was allegedly beaten up by a group of Trinamul Congress activists on Sunday night apparently for staging a play that has politically criticized the Bengal government and the centre at large.
Ranaghat Srijak’s latest production “Koshai” (Butcher) based on a poem penned by UAPA-accused eminent poet Pendyala Varvara Rao earned the wrath this time as its main actor Nirupam Bhattacharjya, 42, was allegedly assaulted on Sunday night near his residential premises in Anulia area of Ranaghat where he has set up an intimate space titled “Daakghar”.
Some Trinamul activists did not like setting up the intimate space and increasing theatre activities there. The addition of Pendyala Varvara Rao’s works eventually made a difference.
Pendyala Varvara Rao (Born in 1940) is a poet and social activist, who was arrested under the non-bailable Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act as an accused in 2018’s Bhima Koregaon violence. He was released on bail by the Supreme Court.
The attack on Nirupam, a private tutor by profession, occurred at about 11.30 pm, a little after he returned home after the 21st show of the play in Halisahar of North 24 Parganas.
The accused persons which include a gram panchayat member of the ruling party have also threatened the Nirupama’s septuagenarian father, a retired school teacher, asking him to ensure suspension of all theatrical activities of his son at his residential premises and to send his son to “asylum” as they termed him mentally ‘unstable’.
Afraid of the threat, Nirupam late at night made a Facebook post narrating the incident. Later on Monday morning, he lodged a complaint with Ranaghat police station.
An official of Ranaghat police told The NfN that a probe has begun against the accused persons.
Local sources and theatre activists said that trouble began for Nirupam, a former CPM party member, ever since he began staging “Koshai” in November last year, which is adapted and directed by Ichhapur-based theatre activist and playwright Subhankar Dassharma.
The plot of the play develops over a police officer and a butcher, who was booked under UAPA as a “threat” to the Nation. The play has also references of recent incidents like the Bogtui massacre, Hanshkhali rape and murder, Hathras rape, and other recent cases in a symbolic manner that has caused embarrassment both for Mamata Banerjee and the Narendra Modi government. The play “Koshai” concludes with a demand for the unconditional release of all the political prisoners who have been pinned in jails.
“It was a planned attack since the play has a clear political statement about the present socio-political situation in the country. Ever since we began staging Koshai at my space some local Trinamul activists began threatening me. They tried to shut down my space and began threatening my father by creating pressure on him so that he being the owner of the land does not allow me to organize shows and to carry out any theatrical activities”, Nirupam told The NfN.
“On Sunday night they first abused me. When I protested they beat up me. Later they told my father to send me to asylum as I have become mentally unstable”, he added further.
None of the accused persons agreed to give any reaction. However, some close associates claimed that the ‘intimate space’ set up by Nirupam created an ‘unhealthy’ situation in the locality.
Eminent playwright Tirthankar Chanda told The NfN, “This is a very shocking incident. I would urge those who attacked Nirupam to reconsider whether they have been doing justice for the next generation”.
Trinamul’s Ranaghat organizing committee President Debasish Ganguly said, “I don’t know if there are any other issues behind the contention. But as a person, I believe in freedom of expression and it hardly matters if it is against my political faith”.
Nirupam’s incident is not an exception in Bengal. In December last year, theater activist Amit Saha of Beliaghata-based Vidushak Natyamandali was assaulted by some Trinamul activists which created a storm among several actors and theatre practitioners.
Theatre personalities like Anirban Bhattacharya, Suman Mukhopadhyay, and Riddhi Sen strongly reacted demanding proper action against the offender.