Staged: The politics of hunger strikes

A man falls in love with a married woman and is beaten up by thugs sent by the husband. The injured man seeks the help of a politician, who takes him to an old acquaintance who is now a god-man. The god-man suggests that the love-struck man go on a hunger strike outside the woman’s house. The man is not sure whether he wants to die of hunger, but the politician and god-man have decided to use him as a tool in their pursuit of political power.

After four days, the man is driven to hysteria by hunger, but there is no turning back. That night, men armed with sticks guard the fasting man to prevent him from stealing away for a quick meal. The man has nightmares of dying.

Since the woman belongs to a different caste, the fast soon assumes communal undertones. A mob from the fasting man’s caste attacks the homes of people who are members of the woman’s community.

On the sixth day, efforts are made to involve the country’s prime minister in the issue. The fast has now become the subject of reports in the newspapers. “It is now a national issue; the country will decide when you will break the fast,” the god-man tells the fasting man.

The hunger strike enters the tenth day; the government declines to intervene. As his scheme faces the prospect of failure, the god-man has an idea: he declares the hunger strike successful. The starving man is finally allowed to go.
The Hindi satire Dus Din Ka Anshan was staged at the Hindustan Times Kala Ghoda Arts Festival on Friday. It is based on a story written by noted satirist Hari Shankar Parsai in 1964.

Vasant Kashikar of Jabalpur-based theatre group Vivechana converted the story into a play three years ago. Since then, it has done 15 shows, in Chhattisgarh and other states.

“The satire was written nearly five decades ago, but the issue is still contemporary,” said Kashikar.


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