Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association expresses solidarity with Kabir Kala Manch

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When poetry is held unlawful…

JTSA in solidarity with artists and poets of Kabir Kala Manch

On April 10, 2015 Bombay High court refused bail to Sachin Mali, Sagar Gorkhe and Ramesh Gaichor of Kabir Kala Manch (KKM), who have remained in jail for two years without a trial. They are not charged with committing violence, or possessing weapons or contraband; it was their singing and their songs that were found unlawful. The KKM poets and artists had been forced to go into hiding in 2011 following the arrest and torture of two of their members by the Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS). They were charged with collaborating with Naxalites; their art was branded ideologically Maoist. In January 2013, the two arrested members of KKM were given bail which prompted Sachin, Sagar, Ramesh and Sheetal Sathe to come out of hiding. In April 2013 the four sang in front of the Maharashtra Assembly in a peaceful, musical satyagraha and were arrested. Since then, Sheetal Sathe has got bail.

In its order, the Bombay High Court found no merit in the bail application and denied bail to the three applicants merely because ‘they are charged for offence under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act’. As if being charged of a crime is in itself the proof of guilt. Denying bail on grounds of the accusations alone amounts to a perversion of the first principle of justice — that one is innocent until proven guilty. JTSA has, in fact, documented many cases where under-trials charged with the most heinous crimes have spent years in jail, only to be acquitted later. In our view, the denial of bail in this case is in line with the way the UAPA has been unleashed by the State over people to silence any dissent and to instill fear into all of us.

The entire KKM case is a story of hounding of a group of Ambedkarite artists and poets performing for those people who the powerful think have no use of art; indeed have no claim to humanity. To be sure, it is not the first instance of its kind when poetry in defence of the powerless has been held to be illegal. Neither is it the first time when artists have been held criminal for producing art. Poets like Pablo Neruda, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Fredrico Garcia Lorca, Nazim Hikmet have been hounded by repressive regimes. In India, we appear to have reached the stage when the recital of life as it is, has become a criminal act that must be brutally silenced. The UAPA by including within its definition of an ‘unlawful activity’ as “any action taken by individual or association (whether by committing an act or by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representation or otherwise)”, institutionalizes the silencing of art that speaks of life, and every thought and idea that challenges the dominant narratives of caste and social inequality. Even though the Bombay High Court while granting bail to four members of KKM in 2013 had unequivocally held that mere membership of banned organizations cannot be grounds for incarceration, nor can speaking, writing or singing about socio-economic injustices be criminalized – it even held section 20 of UAPA to be in conflict with Article 19 of the Indian Constitution – in reality, on the ground, UAPA is invoked regularly to intimidate and jail those who dissent.

JTSA expresses solidarity with poets and artists of Kabir Kala Manch who participate in people’s struggles by writing and singing about structural and caste violence. We laud their role as the voice of the voiceless. We condemn the gagging of their art whose content is made up of the most common concerns of humanity. We assert that their role is to not just sympathise eloquently with people’s plight but that their voice is an appeal to the conscious of the wider society. To suppress this voice is the worst form of oppression.

Released by Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association

23 April 2015.

Kabir Kala Manch members denied bail by Bombay High Court

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ANOTHER BLACK DAY FOR THE (IN))JUSTICE SYSTEM !

This month (10th April) the Bombay High Court again denied bail to 3 members of Kabir Kala Manch (KKM)

Sachin Mali, Sagar Gorkhe and Ramesh Gaichor had voluntarily given themselves up to the police and have been in jail for 2 years awaiting trial. Despite the fact that they had voluntarily given themselves up, they have been denied bail yet again. The judge remarked that 2 years is not that long compared to a life sentence. It should be noted that none of the 3 are accused of any violent crime. They are charged under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, under which prejudice can easily take the place of evidence.

We have no choice now but to knock on the gates of the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile we thank advocates Mihir Desai and Vijay Hiremath and their team for their unstinting support throughout this trial process. We are determined that justice may be delayed but it wont be denied forever.

-Anand Patwardhan for KKM Defence Committee

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