The KKM is made up largely of young dalit boys and girls – but their music spoke of centuries of oppression and resistance. Over the next few years, i followed them intermittently with my camera, at performances, at their homes, with their families. I saw them as the new generation of shahirs or singer-poets who’d taken over the mantle from Annabhau Sathe, Amar Shaikh, Vamandada Kardak and Vilas Ghogre. To my surprise, they did not just sing overtly political songs but fought superstition and even wrote love songs, valorizing gender equality and inter-caste marriage.
Why are you donating the prize money you’ve received to the KKM Defence Committee?
The money was given for a film that highlights the KKM amongst others. Ironically, it was given by a state that’s trying to muzzle these sons and daughters of India. People must be given the democratic space to express anger against injustice – the best way to preserve the freedom we all believe in is to speak out even when it is unpopular and to identify the root causes of dissenta¦
The power of KKM’s music is undeniable and the fact that atrocities against dalits continue makes an uncompromising KKM suspect in the eyes of those who protect the status quo. Yet, the KKM i knew spoke of changing the world not with weapons but through song and drum.
Speaking of protest and dissent, what do you make of the NCERT Ambedkar cartoon row? The cartoon didn’t raise protests when it was drawn in 1949 – why now?
The cartoon in its day did not rouse controversy because the nation was young and hopeful. Ambedkar was drafting the Constitution. He was the law minister. Later, a disillusioned Ambedkar resigned when Nehru stonewalled his Hindu Code Bill in deference to orthodox Hindus. Betrayed by his secular friends, Ambedkar, with lakhs of followers, walked out of Hinduism and embraced Buddhism.
Today, repeated betrayals have frayed the sensitivities of dalits, but the iconic persona of Ambedkar is etched in their hearts forever. Deification, desecration and empty, symbo-lic gestures by the state are now a repeating cycle – these take the place of any real attempt to annihilate caste.
- Anand Patwardhan’s paean to Dalits, that took 14 years to compose (kractivist.wordpress.com)
- Ambedkar Cartoon Debate: A Perspective (kractivist.wordpress.com)
- Ratna Pathak Shah- Speaks for Kabir Kala Manch (kabirkalamanch.wordpress.com)
- The Revolution Will Be Sung The shifting sounds of the Dalit movement in Maharashtra (drsylviakarpagam.wordpress.com)
- Jai Bhim, Comrade Patwardhan (kafila.org)
- KKM defence Committee to meet CM for Kabir Kala Manch activists (kabirkalamanch.wordpress.com)
- Sheetal Sathe- Kabir Kala Manch sings for Mothers of India (English Subtitles) (kabirkalamanch.wordpress.com)
- The Left’s Untouchable (kractivist.wordpress.com)