New Delhi: In a development exposing the inefficacy of the Union Ministry of Culture under the supposedly nationalist BJP-led NDA government, it has been decided that Sunil Shanbhag, brother-in-law of Maoist leader Kobad Ghandy, will receive the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award on 6 February 2019 at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
A source in the Sangeet Natak Akademi reacted to the news saying, “This will be very detrimental to our government at this point in time. Amongst this year’s awardees is the name of Sunil Shanbhag, a theatre director who is related to the Maoist leader Kobad Ghandy.”
Shanbhag’s sister, late Anuradha Kobad, died of malaria last year.
There was some consternation in the circle of performing arts after the name was announced and many senior leaders were informed about the same. Music and dance exponents wrote to ministry and even approached MoS Mahesh Sharma, but to no avail, say sources.
The award function is to be held on 6 February at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. “How can we allow a person with such dubious links into the Rashtrapati Bhavan? The press will have a field day and I can foresee the media headlines: ‘BJP govt honours Maoist leader’s brother-in-law!'” the insider said to Sirf News.
Ghandy is an Indian communist and Maoist-Naxalite leader. He is a member of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist). He was assigned the task of spreading Maoist influence in urban areas and running its propaganda wing.
Ghandy was in charge of the South Western Regional Bureau (SWRB), coordinating Naxal activities in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Maharashtra. Of course, their activity remained stagnant despite all efforts made by the Maoist party. Taking into consideration his ability to analyse the national and international developments, Ghandy was entrusted with the additional job of building up the Maoist movement in urban areas.
In 1985, Shanbag founded the theatre company Arpana. Its work is characterised by “contemporary and original texts by Indian and international playwrights (in translation), strong performances, minimalist staging, and innovative use of music and design.”