The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Border jatra on Laden puts police on toes

Oct. 20: The district administration of minority-dominated Murshidabad is keeping fingers crossed as a two day-jatra festival opens tomorrow with a play, Vishwatrash Laden (Terror of the World: Laden).

The open-air play based on the life of al Qaida leader and terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden will be staged by Calcutta-based troupe Jugantar Opera.

According to officials, though the district police have already issued permission for the performances at Bhaduriapara in the Jalangi police station area tomorrow and at Patikabari on Wednesday, they are worried about its likely impact. The venues also happen to be very close to the Bangladesh border.

District officials said they are expecting a large number of Bangladeshi nationals to cross the border and make up the audiences on the two days.

“We have to be extra careful as the temperament of the people here is different,” said Murshidabad superintendent of police Birendra.

Border Security Force (BSF) personnel have been requested to intensify vigil on the border to ward off trouble, the police chief added.

Birendra said the play was earlier staged in Calcutta, Purulia and some other areas. “But we have to make foolproof arrangements to maintain peace in the area by deploying additional forces in sensitive pockets,” he added.

As part of this exercise, officials from both the Jalangi and Naoda police stations have been working overtime for the past few days.

“They are interacting with their counterparts in other districts where the show has already been staged,” said an official.

The aim is to draw up a modus operandi to tackle the law and order situation during and after the staging of the controversial play based on the feedback of the other districts, the official said.

According to sources, officials in the district’s intelligence machinery are on alert to tap information on those likely to cross over from Bangladesh for the shows.

An intelligence official said the Bangladeshis would not be permitted to travel across the border and mingle with the people here during the plays.

The jatra organisers in the Jalangi and Naoda areas said today that the administration had initially refused to give permission, fearing trouble in the sensitive pockets.

“But, they had to issue a permit when the local police stations cleared the performances following the intervention of higher authorities,” they added.

A manager of Jugantar Opera, Asoke Das, said in Calcutta that the group did not find anything wrong in going ahead with the play.

“Chitpur, known for being the nerve centre of the state’s jatra scene, has the tradition of staging plays on controversial figures. Our aim is to entertain the rural people and nothing else. So, if this creates a law and order problem, we have nothing to do with it,” Das said.

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