Leftist playwright targets Fernandes in new work

The Indian Express, 31-Oct-05
Sabyasachi Bandyopadhyay

Kolkata, October 30, 2005

A scene from Ishtishadi: The Suicide Squad
A scene from Ishtishadi: The Suicide Squad

Leftist playwright targets Fernandes in new work

Sabyasachi Bandopadhyay

LAST year, Leftist playwright Sarigram Guha stirred up quite a controversy with his 16 Millimetre. And this year, he seems set to do the same with his latest work, Istishadi- The Suicide Squad.While 16 Millimetre sought to show how Delhi University professor S A R Geelani was falsely implicated in the Parliament attack case, Istishadi, which Guha has both written and directed, puts George Fernandes' stint as Union defence minister under the scanner.

16 Millimetre raised much interest when Geelani was shot at last year. The play, too, had shown him being shot by unidentified persons."Like in my earlier play, everything in my new work is based on facts. Facts that lead us to believe that the former defence minister was involved in the drug and terror racket. I had access to so much information on this. That is how I built up the play," said Guha. Although Fernandes has not been mentioned by name, the writer added that "you will get to understand who he is".
The play begins with Operation Leach II, launched in 1998 by the then Chief of Naval Staff Vishnu Bhagawat to penetrate into the nefarious route from Myanmar to Jammu and Kashmir via the Northeast that was reportedly used by terrorists for smuggling arms and drugs.

At the very start of the operation, the Navy reportedly intercepted two ships containing drugs and arms in the Bay of Bengal. But the defence ministry reportedly ordered Bhagwat to stop the operation all of a sudden. Fernandes was then the Union Defence Minister.

Bhagwat, along with Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, CPI(M) MPs and leading litterateur Sunil Gangopadhyay will be among the audience as the play stages its inaugural show at Rabindra Sadan tomorrow.

Apart from the abandoned operation, Guha also focuses on other events involving the Army and top security agencies including Interpol, RAW and Military Intelligence.

There is also a part on how some Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists in the lower Poonch area of J&K who wanted to surrender were allegedly gunned down by the army under direct orders from Fernandes.

Then, there is the part on Sarah Anwar, an LeT member who had links with Mohammed Atta of 9/11 notoriety. Atta reportedly called up Anwar on her mobile on September 10,2001, a day before the World Trade Centre attacks. He then "escaped and took shelter at the house of a Delhi University professor M K Hassan."

In December 2001, security agencies raided Hasan's house where they found him dead. Anwar was taken into custody, and reportedly has not been traced since.

Thereafter, the play focuses on Dona Bedi, Delhi High Court lawyer who investigated the case of Hasan's murder. On October 25,2002, Dona was arrested by the police under POTA, On December 28, 2002 she reportedly died in Delhi's Tihar Jail. There are altogether 63 characters played by 32 actors in the play.

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