Play: Rudhadwar, 1991
Written by: Rati Ranjan Misra
Directed by: Dhira Mallick, Satabdira Kalakar Group
India realized the need to set up a National Testing Range (NTR) as the range will meet a long-felt need to develop and improve indigenously produced missiles and space vehicles and reduce India’s dependence on other countries (People’s Union for Democratic Rights, “A Report on Baliapal Missile Base and People’s Struggle”, August 1988). While the decision to set up the NTR was made in 1979, in 1985 the government announced that the range would be located in the Baliapal (Balasore) in Odisha, affecting 70 thousand to 100,000 people across 54 villages. The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 disrupted India’s most important source of defence supplies and the Gulf War of 1990, which affected the South Asian countries adversely because of their economic dependence on the Middle East for oil and trade. The collapse of the Soviet Union hit India —the Soviet Union’s largest customer badly and was unable to obtain even spare parts for routine maintenance of its arms. These changes made India develop its own infrastructure for arms and missiles. In this milieu, Baliapal of Odisha was considered an accurate place for testing the missiles. But the project was resisted by the people who were residing in the area due to displacement and fear of missile attacks.
‘Ruddhadwar’, an Odia play, written by Rati Rajan Misra and directed by Dhira Mallick was staged by the Satabdira Kalakar Group on 18 November 1991. The play was sponsored by the Sangeet Natak Akademi (SNA) and was performed in the East Zonal Theatre festival organized in Gauhati in 1991. The play was further performed at Shantiniketan in 2006 and in the Rang Sangam program by Sangeet Natak Academy New Delhi at Ahmedabad in 2011.
In the play, the inhabitants of an imaginary village, ‘Phasalpal’ hear the news that there will be an NTR in their locality. Out of fear that the area will become a battleground, the people of Phasalpal, under the leadership of the local school teacher, oppose the project and brings the administrative functioning of the village to a standstill. The administration uses force and tries to divide the masses; local musclemen are hired to kill the school teacher and his family. The villagers remain silent as they fear for their lives and the police close the case. At last, a small child, the son of the teacher, comes forward and lifts the banner of revolution, and declares that the fight must go on to restore peace.Play- Ruddhadwar, 1991
Source: Brochure, ‘East Zone Theatre Festival 1991’, Guwahati, Courtesy – Sangeet Natak Akademi, New Delhi