Calcutta, Dec. 24: A cultural journey that began from Jammu and Kashmir and ended in Bengal was all but brutally derailed at Bihar.
Members of a Jammu-based theatre group, Natrang, on their way here to perform at a national theatre festival were assaulted by hooligans on board the Himgiri Express when it was passing through Bihar early on Tuesday. The goons started harassing the troupe — teasing and attempting to molest its five female members — once the train rolled out of Varanasi station.
“When the train reached Patna, they tried to drag the girls out of the compartment. As we protested, they beat us up, seriously injuring our director in the process,” said Neeraj Kant shortly before taking the stage for Ghumayee at the Academy of Fine Arts this evening.
Director Balwant Thakur bore the brunt of the assault. “When I protested, they abused me and one of them hit me on the forehead. I lost consciousness,” he said. “What hurts more is the mindless way in which people like us are treated and how helpless we are in the face of organised crime,” lamented the Sangeet Natak Academy awardee and former secretary of the Jammu and Kashmir government’s arts, culture and languages department.
Thakur cannot forget how at Patna, a lady police constable pleaded helplessness when the girls were being harassed. “Yeh sab Laloo ke admi hain (These goons owe allegiance to Laloo Prasad Yadav),” she told the Natrang members even as the goons strutted out of the station, escorted by armed guards.
Insisting the show must go on, Natrang staged Ghumayee even as the man who conceptualised, scripted, designed and directed the play lay in hospital with a badly-damaged right eye.