Terrorism Today...and On Stage


At the time of writing this India and Pakistan stand at the brink of war. What triggered this round of hostilities was an act of terrorism at Pulwama in Kashmir, India. A Kashmiri terrorist drove a car loaded with IEDs into a CRPF (Indian paramilitary forces) bus killing 44 soldiers. The terrorist left a video behind claiming allegiance to Jaish-e-Mohammed, a terrorist organization based in Pakistan. After that, the Indian Air Force struck a site in Pakistan followed by the Pakistan Air Force attempting a counter attack in which a fighter plane from each side was downed. At this time, amid accusations and counter-accusations, a global PR battle rages between the two countries.

Someone smart once said "War is the continuation of politics by other means." At BAD Company, while we love to wade into the social issues of the day, we give politics a wide berth. Besides, what we really want to talk about is our upcoming show – Ayad Akhtar's The Invisible Hand– which is not about war. But it is about terrorism.

More precisely, The Invisible Hand is about terrorism in Pakistan. The parallels between life and art – what's playing out on the subcontinent right now, and what you will see on stage later this month – are eerie.

The Invisible Hand is set against the backdrop of rural Punjab (Pakistan). Imam Salem, the character that I play, is the head of a terrorist organization. He is from Bahawalpur, which is the supposed headquarters of the aforementioned Jaish-e-Mohammed. In the play there are repeated mentions of Lashkar-e-Taiba, the terrorist group that claimed responsibility for "26/11" – the November 2008 shootings and bombings in Mumbai that took 170 lives. There are foreign "fighters" coming in to join the jihad in Kashmir. There are American drones. We could go on...but you probably get the point.

Can terrorism be just? If you abhor the taking of innocent lives, no terrorism can be just. But what if the targets of the terrorists are the military, para-military or the police? What if it was in reaction to the oppressive rule of a powerful state? Where is the line between resistance and terrorism?

These are tough questions to answer. But what we do know is that terrorism, like everything, eventually becomes about power and money. The leadership of what once may have been a just cause, now cares less about the cause itself and more about the perpetuation of its power and prestige. And so they keep feeding the beast of terrorism. Violence begets violence. And the cycle continues. 

The Invisible Hand underscores this nexus between money and terrorism in a powerful way. We hope you'll come to see it.

Meanwhile we fervently hope that saner minds prevail and that we avoid war on the subcontinent. FDR said that “War is young men dying and old men talking." Let's hope that the old men at the helm of the two countries talk to each other and stand down their armed forces.

– Basab Pradhan

The Invisible Hand will run from March 22-30 at Sunnyvale Theater. Tickets here.

Basab Pradhan