Silver Lining Playbook: 'Ccelebration' of Safdar Hashmi’s 25th death anniversary.

January 1, 1989, was a Sunday. At Jhandapur, home to workers and migrant labourers in Ghaziabad, a large crowd was treating itself to a play by Jana Natya Manch (Janam) called Halla Bol. "The actors were running late and people were waiting. Halla Bol has a great deal of humour and the first part is particularly funny. It was going very well until the attack came," says Moloyshree Hashmi, a member of Janam. Political goons at odds with Janam convenor Safdar Hashmi's ideology hounded and killed him brutally. A migrant worker Ram Bahadur, too, was murdered.

The incident sent shock waves of horror and anger through the nation and across borders, and remains among the heinous incidents in Indian's cultural history. "Ever since, January 1 has been 'celebrated' to mark the solidarity between artistes and workers," says Moloyshree. Ask her about her personal loss — Safdar was her husband — and all she says is, "We went back to Jhandapur a few days later and finished the play". In the years that followed, the group has been marking the event with cultural performances across Jhandapur and the larger Sahibabad region.

"This year, we decided to break up the celebration into small events spread across months and involving children and residents of the area. We wanted locals to participate rather than highlight performances that come from outside and leave," says Moloyshree. A storytelling session involving local schools of Arthala, Ghaziabad, was held on Wednesday while a mela at Dr Ambedkar Park in Jhandapur on Sunday, featured a street play, canvas painting by local people, food stalls and a show by Ishamuddin, a magician from the slums of Kathputli Colony who is said to have mastered the Great Indian Rope Trick.

From December 25, students of Delhi Art College will hold a public arts project, involving painting murals in the Jhandapur park and the walls of surrounding houses. New Year's Day will mark the "25th Safdar Hashmi Shahadat Divas", a medley of street plays, songs by groups from Jhandapur and towns such as Kurukshetra, and Smita Vats, founder of heritage walks organisation Itihaas, will also conduct a walk through Jhandapur, offering participants an insight into how the "other" lives. The festival will stretch till February when Janam holds Halla Bol, an arts festival that features performers from marginalised classes.

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