Palestine’s Freedom Theatre coming to India

Artwork by Orijit Sen in support of The Freedom Theatre’s tour of India.

The Freedom Theatre

The Freedom Theatre, the well-known Palestinian group based in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin, has announced that company members will be heading to India this December for what is believed to be the first ever India-Palestine theatrical collaboration.

The initiative will pair The Freedom Theatre with veteran artistic group Jana Natya Manch, a New Delhi-based theater which was established in 1973 to perform political works in Hindi. Since then, it has staged more than 7,500 performances of 100 different works in 140 cities around India, according to its website.

Jana Natya Manch describes itself as having had a “significant role in popularizing street theater as a form of voicing anger and public opinion. The company has performed works on subjects including women’s rights, the education system, trade unions, elections and inflation.

“Street theater,” the group’s website maintains, “addresses topical events and social phenomena and takes them straight to peoples’ places of work and residence. This type of theatre has become a vital cultural tool for workers, revolutionaries and social activists.”

In a second important creative link with India, The Freedom Theatre’s visit has been celebrated in artworks by prominent Indian visual artist and activist Orijit Sen, whose images – drawing on themes of creation and resistance – are being used in publicity for the tour.

Tours of India and Palestine

The Freedom Theatre says that eight students and artists from the group will head to India for training and rehearsals in Delhi. This will be followed by a two-month tour of the resulting play, comprising more than 30 performances and events with local artists.

In April 2016, Jana Natya Manch will make a return visit, coming to Palestine for joint performances in Jenin and other West Bank locations.

The two companies are also planning a film and book to document this unique project.

Shared history

The Freedom Theatre and Jana Natya Manch have a shared history of tragedy and rebirth.

Safdar Hashmi, the playwright and actor and Jana Natya Manch co-founder, was assassinated while performing in Jhandapur in 1989.

And in 2011 Freedom Theatre director Juliano Mer Khamis was also murdered. Both theaters have overcome their traumatic losses to build strong, sustainable institutions.

Jonatan Stanczak, managing director of The Freedom Theatre, said in the tour announcement that “We are connected by experiences of resisting oppression in search of freedom. The yoke of colonialism and the steadfast resistance against it connects our histories.

“India has liberated itself from colonialism but is facing new forms of intolerance, injustice and oppression. Palestine is still struggling to achieve independence. We hope this initiative will be the beginning of a colorful, cultural collaboration between India and Palestine, uniting our struggles for justice, equality and freedom through art.”

The joint artistic initiatives are especially significant in the face of governmental ties between Israel and India’s Hindu nationalist ruling party, the virulently Islamophobic BJP.

American Zionist campaigner Adam Milstein has called Narendra Modi, India’s BJP prime minister, Israel’s “best friend.”

And India is now one of Israel’s most significant trading partners, with the BJP government now the largest global customer for Israel’s military export industry.




As an Indian I'm happy to see collab. But I'm so heartbroken at the silence on Kashmir in this post. India's war crimes and occupation of Kashmir; the checkpoints, the rapes, murders, disappearances, are all issues that are pertinent. The struggle that ties Palestine with that region should be Kashmir. Although yes India has a deep history of liberation from colonialism, its hand in the oppression of Kashmiris cannot go unnoticed. I'm a little disappointed. Freedom can't be achieved on the backs of another oppressed group.


Aminah, I, too, am happy to see the collaboration, but also wondered about the Kashmiri ties. I am Palestinian and have been to Kashmir to work with folk and contemporary musicians seeking to preserve the Kashmiri language. I also see the plight of the Kashmiris almost mirroring that of the Palestinians; a people disenfranchised and treated like 2nd class citizens to their governing entities. During the last Gaza war, I saw Kashmiris taking to the streets of Srinagar in protest of Israel's aggression. I would really love to see more Palestinian/Kashmiri collaboration.


I am a pro-Palestinian guy.

Stay away from Kashmir,its way complicated than Palestinian cause.

If you really want to achieve Palestine u need extra billion non-Muslim Indians in addition to 1.5 billion Muslims.
By combining Palestine with Kashmir u will loose a billion ,mind u india is one of very few countries voted against formation of Israel.

Yes,India is slowly moving towards Israel bcoz of ppl like u ........

Sarah Irving

Sarah Irving's picture

Sarah is a freelance writer and editor, author of a biography of Leila Khaled and of the Bradt Guide to Palestine, co-editor of A Bird is Not a Stone (a volume of Palestinian poetry translated into the languages of Scotland), and a PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh. She has worked and traveled in Palestine since 2001.