Sheetal Sathe performing and reading Sachin Mali’s poetry at his book launch

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Sheetal Sathe performed a few songs of revolution for the first time after being out on bail. This was at the launch of Sachin Mali’s poetry book at St. Xaviers Bombay. She also reads a few poems from Sachin’s book of poetry.

Eminent persons to release poetry book by Sachin Mali of Kabir Kala Manch

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Launch of Sachin Mali's book of poetry at St. Xaviers College

Launch of Sachin Mali’s book of poetry at St. Xaviers College

Venue: Main Hall, St. Xaviers College, opp. Azad Maidan

Date: Monday, 12 May

Lokvangmay Gruha and the Kabir Kala Manch Defence Committee invites you to the release of Sachin Mali’s book of poems “Sadhya Patta Bhumigat” (Current Address: Underground).

The Kabir Kala Manch (KKM), a working class cultural troupe that spoke out against anti-Dalit atrocities like the Ramabai police firing and the rape and murders in Khairlanji, had been forced into hiding in 2011 after some of their members were arrested by the Anti Terror Squad (ATS) who branded them as Naxalite collaborators. Eventually after civil society began to show support for the KKM and after the Bombay High Court granted bail to a few co-accused, the KKM decided to voluntarily give themselves up to face the due process of law. A year ago Sachin Mali and 3 other members of the KKM, did a Satyagraha by singing songs in the vicinity of the State Assembly before giving themselves up to the ATS. Since then, while KKM’s Sheetal Sathe has been released on bail, Sachin Mali, Sagar Gorkhe and Ramesh Gaichor are still in jail. “Sadhya Patta Bhumigat” published by Lokvangmay Gruha consists mainly of poems written by Mali while in hiding and a few composed after being incarcerated. The poems add a new leaf to the vibrant tradition of subaltern Dalit literature.

The evening is conceived of as a cultural event with talks, poetry reading and songs. Girish Karnad will be the chief guest and eminent theater personality Ratna Pathak Shah, Advocate Prakash Ambedkar, Mihir Desai, writers and cultural activists Satish Kalsekar, J. V. Pawar, Ratnakar Mhatkari, Pradnya Pawar, Sambhaji Bhagat and many others will grace the occasion.

Time: 5 PM

Anand Patwardhan (9819882244), Prakash Reddy (9869000684) and Vivek Sundara (9821062801) for KKM Defence Committee and Lokvangmay Gruha.

Sanctum Santorum (Kabir Kala Manch Performance)

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Dalits who were oppressed and treated as “untouchables” by Hindu society for thousands of years today reject superstition and blind faith. This song and performance by the Kabir Kala Manch (KKM) was shot in 2010. Sometime after this footage was shot the police began harassing the KKM until they went underground. In April 2013 they did a non-violent protest outside the Maharashtra State Assembly and were arrested. Today three of them are out on bail while three others including the composer and singer of this song are still in jail, charged under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).

The Kabir Kala Manch Defence Committee (KKMDC) is fighting for their release from prison and for their freedom of expression. This music video apart from being a reminder of what the KKM stands for, is a timely reminder of the fact that India’s working majority are ready to abandon superstition for reason.

 

Kabir Kala Manch Bail Application Rejected by High Court

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Today Justice A.R. Joshi of the High Court of Bombay delivered a verbal order in the matter relating to the bail application of three cultural activists (poets and singers) of the Kabir Kala Manch (KKM). Shockingly Justice Joshi rejected the bail appeal of Sachin Mali, Sagar Gorkhe and Ramesh Gaichor.

It may be recalled that the KKM, a Dalit and working class group, was forced to go into hiding in 2011 after two of their members were arrested and tortured by the Anti Terrorist Squad (ATS) and charged with collaborating with Naxalites. In 2012 after a film highlighting their music was released and a KKM Defence Committee was formed, the KKM began to feel that there was civil society support for their work. When in January 2013 Justice Thipsay of the Bombay High Court granted bail to the two arrested KKM activists (Deepak Dengle and Siddharth Bhonsle) it gave courage to the other KKM members who due to police repression were living in hiding. Finally Sheetal Sathe , Sachin Mali, Sagar Gorkhe, Ramesh Gaichor decided to submit themselves to the due process of law. They did a peaceful Satyagraha by singing songs outside the State Assembly and were duly arrested. While Sheetal was granted bail in July 2013, Sachin, Sagar and Ramesh have remained in jail for a year.

Interestingly the charges against Sheetal are exactly the same as those against the three who were denied bail today. Their crime ? Writing and singing songs against poverty, inequality, gender injustice, environmental degradation, corruption, superstition. They voluntarily submitted to the due process of law and showed faith in democracy. Even the ATS has not charged them with committing violence or possessing weapons or contraband. Their weapons are only their passionate songs pleading for justice.

Today as the country is caught in the throes of an election where communal violence and rhetoric have become the norm, the sane and rational voices of Sachin, Sagar and Ramesh must multiply rather than be unjustly locked behind bars.

Note: The written order in this case is not yet available but the brief oral order read by Justice Joshi while rejecting the bail plea was merely that these applicants are charged under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), as if that in itself is tantamount to guilt! One wonders if the learned bench is trying to say that it is useless for anyone charged under UAPA to try to get justice in court.

Advocates Mihir Desai and Vijay Hiremath who appeared pro bono for the KKM put up a lucid and passionate defence stressing that their clients were young persons who had already lost years of their life in hiding and in jail merely for the crime of being poor and singing songs for justice.

The KKM Defence Committee will now approach the Supreme Court of India.

- Kabir Kala Manch Defence Committee

Kabir Kala Manch – Living to tell the tale

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Through their controversial protest music, Kabir Kala Manch aims, not to create commotion but, to bring about change. Neerja Dasani

Changemakers:KKM uses wit and satire to raise prevelant social issues.Photo: Neerja Dasani 

Changemakers:KKM uses wit and satire to raise prevelant social issues.Photo: Neerja Dasani

The art of irony is something that the members of Kabir Kala Manch (KKM), who identify themselves not as a cultural troupe but as a political movement, are well-versed in. This could be because life for them has been a series of curious contradictions. Emerging from mohallas  and  bastis , their voices reverberated through the corridors of power, disturbing the slumber of those within. Finding democracy’s din too unsettling, its elected guardians branded KKM as anti-national. The resultant time spent either in jail or underground, strengthened the members’ resolve instead of silencing them into submission.

Along the way, they have lost jobs, fallen behind in their academic pursuits, been separated from their families; they were prominently featured in Anand Patwardhan’s incisive documentary ‘Jai Bhim Comrade’ which has gone on to win aNational Award. At a recent performance at the Film and Television Institute of IndiaPune, KKM along with the event’s organisers, were attacked by members ofAkhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad. The attempt to intimidate supporters led instead to a surge in KKM’s popularity, with invitations to perform coming in from across the country.

A fraction of the group was in Chennai last week to participate in Prakriti Foundation’s annual ‘Poetry with Prakriti’ festival. Rupali Jadhav, Deepak Dhengle, Ramdas Unhale, Dada Waghmare and Laxman Kalleda expressed their intent to continue “taking the voice of the people to the people and giving them the courage to stand up against injustice”. Even without their “real strength” – Ramesh Gaichore, Sachin Mali and Sagar Gorkhe, who are still in jail, and Sheetal Sathe and Jyoti Chorge who are currently unable to tour – they astutely lay bare ground realities, using wit and satire to raise issues such as caste discrimination, women’s oppression, the agrarian crisis, rising inequality and rampant superstition.

Following in the tradition of Dalit protest music, they draw artistic inspiration from people like Annabhau Sathe, Vilas Ghogre and Sambhaji Bhagat, while ideologically they turn to Ambedkar, Bhagat SinghJyotiba PhuleSavitribai Phule, Periyar etc. — names that an urban elite audience hardly ever encounters, except perhaps on street signs. “The capitalist media’s brainwashing causes even a grassroots person living in a shanty to be preoccupied with the same thoughts as a mansion-dweller. We’re forgetting the world around us,” says Deepak Dhengle. With lyrics like ‘The sky is your roof/no blanket in the winter/your world is at the traffic signal/standing in the glaring sun/Why is it like this?’, KKM attempts to rouse people from their stupor.

While their focus has been on building solidarity among the dispossessed by performing in slums, villages and factories , they are now reaching out to the middle class which they perceive as being vital to any social upheaval. While earlier their lyrics were only in Marathi, they now have a sizeable Hindi repertoire, widening their reach.

With an eye on the general elections they urge people to vote against feudal and communal forces. Taking digs at the two major electoral parties, they mock the religious agenda of one (‘All they can see is temples here/there/up and down’) and the everlasting “Garibi Hatao” slogan of the other. “If you are tired of this kind of politics, choose the form which suits you best and take power into your own hands,” says Dhengle.

KKM’s poetry also has a strong feminist current. The women  shahirs  (poet-singers) live their politics, working hard to complete their education and choosing their own life partners, often from outside their caste. Having faced the double discrimination of growing up as a woman in a Dalit household, Rupali Jadhav displays this political maturity while interrogating the audience: “After the Delhi gang rape, people were asking for the perpetrators to be hung, but will that change anything? If we must hang something it should be the feudal system that has taken root in the mind of every Indian male.”

Discussing their creative process Jadhav notes wryly, “There’s no need for us to do  riyaaz  (practice) to think about oppression. We write what we experience.” It is this directness that has touched a raw nerve in the authorities as well as the audience. One reacts with suppression, the other with solidarity. “Our idea is not to create a commotion, it is to create change,” says Dhengle.

Read here – http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-literaryreview/living-to-tell-the-tale/article5539571.ece

Kabir Kala Manch – Young Turks fired by zeal for their ideology

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Kochi, November 5, 2013, The Hindu

Nidhi Surendranath

‘Ideology’ is a word Deepak Dhengle uses frequently when he talks about his life. His ideology changed his life completely in the last few years and landed him in jail in 2011.

Dhengle, who says he subscribes to Marxism and the teachings of B.R. Ambedkar, was arrested by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad on charge of associating with Naxalites.

Dhengle, 38, is part of the Pune-based cultural activism group Kabir Kala Manch (KKM), which travels to slums and rural areas of Maharashtra and delivers performances against poverty, caste oppression, and other social issues. Several activists of KKM have been arrested on charge of indoctrinating people into the Naxalite ideology.

Now out on bail, Dhengle was in the city with five other members of KKM to deliver a performance here at the inauguration of a film club. “I have never taken up arms. But the State arrested me under a law that punishes terrorists,” says Dhengle. “We are all democratic people. But we want a true democracy. The Constitution written by Ambedkar should be followed in its true spirit. That is not happening today,” he says.

KKM’s fight, say its members, is against the inequality and minority oppression rampant in India. “There is no electricity and no water in my village outside Pune even today. During the four months of rains, we get electricity only for two hours in the day. There are no good schools. There is a hospital, but no guarantee of getting medicines. Nothing has changed there,” says Dhengle, who works as a mechanic in Pune.

“Pune has one of the most expensive bus systems in the country. How can the poor live in such conditions?” says Rupali Jadhav, a member of KKM.

KKM organises music, poetry and theatre performances in slums and villages on themes such as inequality, illiteracy, price rise, capitalism, and cultural and social oppression. The songs, some of them drawn from the tradition of Dalit protest in Maharashtra and others written by KKM members, deliver their message in simple and direct style. “Our performances come from our folk culture. They tell our audience, primarily tribals and Dalits, about the oppression they face and why such things happen,” says Rupali.

KKM’s musical performances are powerful and draw upon images from the life around them to deliver the message. Their performance was featured in the 2012 documentary Jai Bhim Comrade by award-winning filmmaker Anand Patwardhan. “Our performance is powerful because it is based on our own bitter experiences,” says KKM musician Ramdas Unhale. Ramdas is a carpenter, who like many members of KKM, lives in a Pune slum.

KKM was formed in Pune following the Godhra riots. Dhengle was attracted to the movement in 2004 when he saw and advertisement by the organisation in a newspaper. “I could sing well and I knew I wanted to do something different. So I joined KKM. The ideology came later,” he says.

Others like Rupali and Ramdas joined KKM after seeing their street play and song performances in their slums. Also in Kochi were KKM musicians Rajat R. Avsak, Dattatrey, and Dada Waghmare. All of them do odd jobs in Pune and were drawn into the music and message of the organisation. Despite the arrests, the Kala Manch’s performances are drawing many young people. “The college students who are joining us now already know Marxism. They don’t have to study the ideology first like we did,” says Dhengle. This interest in KKM’s thinking was what prompted the ATS to arrest them, he says. Three of KKM’s members are still in prison, while the others have been let out on bail.

The arrest has hit their lives severely. “We all lost whatever small jobs we were doing. Though we are on bail, we have to report to the investigating agency regularly. That is also affecting our jobs,” says Rupali.

The organisation, however, has managed to keep going. KKM recently performed in Bangalore, with Dattatrey even performing a song in Kannada. Having arrived in Kerala for the first time, the group is disappointed by what they saw here.

“We had high hopes when we were coming here. We heard that Kerala had a strong Communist movement and that women were empowered here. But the myth is now broken,” says Dhengle. “For land so rich in natural resources, the situation is not much better here. Why have the Communists here not done anything? What will I go back and tell all those people who hold Kerala in high regard?” he says.

For now, the members of Kabir Kala Manch will go back with these questions and find ways to fortify their own movement.

 

Armed with revolutionary poems, Kabir Kala Manch activists want to fight against state

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GAYATRI JAYARAMAN  MUMBAI,
Kabir Kala Manch poster
Kabir Kala Manch poster

Aasaman te rachat 

Nahin jaade mein rajaai 
 
Signal pe teri duniya 
Khadi dhoop mein hai bhai
 
Indica mein firte kutte 
Mercedes mein ghoomte kutte 
 
Tujhe biscuit ki bheek 
Aisa kyon hai? Aisa kyon hai? Aisa kyon hai?
Above the bustle of dense Pune city traffic, at a roadside tapri, the sweet voice of primary poet and composer of cultural activism group Kabir Kala Manch, Deepak Dhengle, 38, resurrects these, the first words of revolution he ever penned a decade ago. Three others of the group, Jyoti Jagtap, 27, Siddharth Bhonsle, 27 and Rupali Jadhav, 28 share one cup of tea between them, and listen to the lyrics that are their only weapon against a State that labels them naxals.
All of them have spent the last two years underground, but courted arrest in May this year, and are currently out on bail. Their colleague, poet Sheetal Sathe, nine months pregnant and incarcerated at Byculla jail in Mumbai under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, is released on bail a day after this meeting. Rupali’s husband, Sagar Godkhe, and Jyoti’s husband, Sachin Kale, remain behind bars.
Dhengle, a small time motor mechanic who found employment with the government in Pune after he came to the city when his father was displaced after TELCO shut down in Bhimashankar, in 1996, joined the Manch after the Gujarat riots. He found them singing about the removal of caste, class and community differences. He began to compose and sing too.
Arrested under sections 465, 387, 419, 465, 467, 468, 471 and 120 B of the IPC, section 10, 13, 17, 18, 18A, 18 B, 20, 21, 38, 39, 40 (2) of the UAPA, Dhengle’s defence claims that he was tortured in custody to the extent that he faces potential paralysis and was forced to confess sympathy for Naxal. He has never picked up a gun or received arms training, he says. He has been suspended from service and survives on the goodwill of friends.
This is not the intellectual activism of the well-ensconced elite. The crackdown of the State is so intense, to continue is not an easy or obvious choice to make. But he, and those with him, will continue to sing of these issues at colleges, in slums, he says, come what may.
“There is a difference between the ahimsa of Gandhi and the ahimsa of Buddha. Buddha spoke of attadippa bhava (annihilation). It is a whole philosophy of opposition that ends oppression. The youth in its enthusiasm wants instant change. The voice, with which we sing, is the vidrohi voice (the counter culture, the voice of opposition). It is drawn from a long history of Dalit literature and activism that prompted social betterment. If this has us branded naxals, then so be it. If Babasaheb Ambedkar was alive today, maybe he would have accepted the Communist party.” Dhengle says.