KERALA

Cycling for peace, communal harmony

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM Jan. 28. They are on a mission to spread the message of universal brotherhood, world peace, communal harmony, literacy and polio eradication, especially among the rural masses, by staging street plays and by moving around the country in bicycles.

Four youngsters, including a girl, from Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh, have pedalled over 29,000 km in 11 months, traversing seven States to reach the capital the other day. Shanti, a baby monkey gifted by a lorry driver in Andhra Pradesh, also has become part of the team.

Members of the Bharatiya Yuva Natya Manch Parivar (Rangi Jagath), a Gorakhpur-based drama troupe, the team comprising Ranjeet Bachachan alias Magan Gorakhpuri, Kalinidhi Sharma, Rishi Kumar and Sunny Kumar started their expedition on February 4, 2002.

``We were eight when we started from Gorakhpur town. Two dropped out mid-way through the trip on account of ill health and two more were forced to return by their parents," says Rishi Kumar and Sunny Kumar. Undeterred by the initial setbacks, they decided to continue with the trip. To spread the message of world peace, communal harmony and universal brotherhood, they have selected a short story titled `Kya yehi mera watan? ' (Is this my motherland?) by Munshi Premchand. Three street plays, all scripted by the team leader Ranjit Bachchan, are also being staged to spread the messages.

In the city, the team staged street plays near the railway station, Pattom, near the Commissioner's office and near the Cliff House.

As many as 3,400 street plays have been staged by them in seven States--Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

Apart from Hindi and Bhojpuri, the team members do not know any other Indian language.

"It is the biggest barrier while moving through several States, especially in the South, and they have overcome it with the help of gestures," says Mr. Rishi Kumar.

``We were able to call on the Chief Minister, A.K. Antony, the Director General of Police, K.J. Joseph, and the City Police Commissioner, Rajan Singh. But, efforts to meet the Governor Sikander Bakht was not successful," they say.

All four are determined to cover the entire country in the coming days. "We have not fixed any date for this. We will not rest until we cover all the States," says Mr. Kumar. From the city, the team plans to move on to the other districts and then to Karnataka, Goa and Gujarat.

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