Monthly Archives: October 2012

Kabir Kala Manch CD Release- Video


Jnanpith award-winning writer and actor  Girish Karnad presided at the Music CD release function that was organised for Kabir Kala Manch at the Marathi Patrakar Sangh in Mumbai on October 4. The function was organised by the Kabir Kala Manch Defence Committee, which is protesting against the injustice the group has been facing.


Guerilla theatre under sniper attack

Deepak Dengle, of Kabir Kala Manch before his Arrest

Deepak Dengle, of Kabir Kala Manch before his Arrest

Are street-based theatre performances,one of the most mobile and least governable forms of protest,increasingly leaving its actors open to attacks 

Gitanjali Dang | TNN 

In May last year,two members of the Kabir Kala Manch (KKM) Deepak Dengle and Siddharth Bhonsle were arrested by the Maharashtra Anti Terrorist Squad for being pro-Maoist under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA),1967.While Dengle and Bhonsle are still in prison,other members of the group,including Sheetal Sathe and Sagar Gorkhe,have gone underground.
India has a long history of muzzling street-based protest performances.If its not the government,then its political hoodlums.KKM,incidentally,is a group of Dalit protest singers and poets from Pune who convey their socio-political critique through songs and street plays.
Shahir Sambhaji Bhagat,a radical poet and political activist who has been singing songs of change for 30 years mentored KKM.Members of KKM were hurt by the Gujarat genocide.They approached me.Impressed by their dedication and intelligence,I agreed to help them.As KKM is Pune-based and I live in Mumbai,I visited them during weekends.I shared my thoughts on revolutionary and peoples art with them.I cant comment on their political affiliations but I know that they are like my kids.Several of them are gold medalists and they make better music than the likes of AR Rahman.
The most dastardly attack on street performances was on January 2,1989,when Safdar Hashmi,Communist playwright and founding member of Jana Natya Manch (Peoples Theatre Front),was brutally murdered while he was performing a play,Halla Bol,in a village in Ghaziabad.The Ghaziabad municipal elections were on at the time and the play was in support of the workers demands presented by the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU).
In March the same year,M F Husain commemorated the leftist ideologue in his painting Tribute to Hashmi at an exhibition in Mumbais Victoria Terminus Railway Station (now Chattrapati Shivaji Terminus).Ironically,by 2006,Husain himself had to flee India as several cases were filed against him for his allegedly obscene paintings of Indian goddesses.
Although,contemporary Indian art,like in Husains case,has increasingly faced fascist reactions from the state,the ante of repression is perennially being upped for street performers.Earlier this month,Bureau Publik,Denmark a space aimed at understanding the new forms of resistance that have emerged in the US,the Middle East,North Africa and Europe opened a project titled,Revolution Happened Because Everybody Refused to Go Home.This telling title can be easily related to the perennial crisis faced by Indian street theatre artistes,poets and singers.The revolution,as it were,requires people to not go home but to stay on the streets.
Explaining the potency of street theatre,playwright-director Ramu Ramanathan says,Unencumbered by technology,the theatrical event needs only actors,a script and an audience.It is one of the most mobile and hence,least governable,of the performing arts.It can perform,move on,and perform again,concealing its whereabouts and activities. He takes the example of Telugu balladeer and activist Gaddar.He was supposed to perform in a crowded chowk in Nagpur.There was a siege situation.The police were out to arrest a man they perceived to be a threat to national security.When he finally appeared,he hollered a statement from atop a police van.This act could be called guerilla theatre and it actively opposes the governments war on impoverished farmers and farm hands.Such theatre sounded the first clarion call of opposition,long before other media.Gaddars theatre made it more mobile and less controllable than other performing arts.
Ramanathan is also a member of the KKM Defence Committee.It was initiated in May this year.Ironically,the committee came into being when prominent documentary Anand Patwardhan set aside the Rs 51,000 he was awarded by Maharashtra government for winning a National Award for his documentary Jai Bhim Comrade,2012.It took 14 years to make and follows the poetry and music of Dalits.
The project was set into motion,in part,by the 1997 death of Dalit balladeer Vilas Ghogre.In 1997,a statue of Dr B R Ambedkar was desecrated with footwear in Mumbais Ramabai colony.Police opened fire on the protesting Dalits,killing 10.Vilas Ghogre,a Dalit balladeer hung himself in protest.Appropriately,Patwardhans mediation on this subaltern tradition,ends with a segment on KKM.
The street as a performance arena predominantly belongs to Dalit and Left movements and the fort is held by contemporary groups such as Republican Panthers,Ambedkari Mission and Bharat Bachav Andolan.That said,journalist Javed Iqbal,whose been writing on peoples movements in India,believes that such movements are found wherever there are disenfranchised citizens, be it Mumbai  s l u m s o r  Chhattisgarh villages.

Chakravyuh main Betiyan- Sheetal Sathe


NDTV India did a ten minute report on  Kabir Kala Manch on Oct 18th 2012, which had interviews with sambhaji bhagat and Actress Ratna Pathak Shah, alongwith the snippets from Anand Patwardhan‘s film ‘ Jai Bhim Comrade”

Kabir Kala Manch : The Sound of Silence


By Neerja Dasani

10 October, 2012

The longer one lives in a representative democracy the more it seems that it isn’t quite what the civics textbooks make it out to be – you know the whole, ‘of the people, by the people, for the people’ stuff? For instance, when faced with the prospect of corrupt business practitioners causing huge losses to the state, pocketing politicians eager to facilitate that process or a music band protesting the effect of this nexus on the people, who is the government most likely to punish? It’s a bit sad how obvious the answer is, and sadder still, how resigned we are to this situation, no matter which part of the world we find ourselves in.

In the past few months there has been extensive media coverage of the Pussy Riot story in which three members of a feminist rock group were handed a two-year jail term for performing an anti-Putin song inside a Russian Orthodox Cathedral. The case has become a global talking point, including in India where many people have spoken out in support of the group and their message of freedom from a ‘repressive corporate political system’. But how many of us have heard of Kabir Kala Manch (KKM)?

Over a year ago the members of this Pune-based cultural group, found themselves being given a new identity by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad – the one-size-fits-all term for anyone that makes the state squirm – Naxalism. Two members, Deepak Dengle and Sidharth Bhonsle were arrested while others including singer-poets Sheetal Sathe, Sagar Gorkhe and Sachin Male were forced to go underground. Even their families were persecuted since, as we all know, ‘sedition’ is genetic.

There seems to be a guarded silence around this case as far as the media is concerned – no breaking news, no SMS campaigns and no ‘expert’ panel discussions. The few people, who have come across this story, might not have done so, if it weren’t for Anand Patwardhan‘s hard-hitting documentary, ‘Jai Bhim Comrade’.

Ironically, one of the central motifs of the film is the legacy of Dalit protest music, which calls for a unified struggle against caste oppression, labour exploitation and inequality and is a vehicle for the reclamation of the dignity of those who continue to be denied it. KKM – featured prominently in the film – are moulded out of this same indignant material; they’re armed with assertively wry lyrics and haunting voices, which more than meets the requirements for an ‘anti-national’ label.

This list of ‘branded’ citizens is now growing at an alarming rate. Arun Ferreira, Jeetan Marandi, Debolina Chakraborty, Shamim Modi, Seema Azad, Vishwavijay, Prashant Rahi, Sudhir Dhawale, Vernon Gonsalves, Abhay Sahoo, Soni Sori etc., etc. – the names of people implicated by the state (many of whom are still in jail) just flitter in and out of our consciousness from time to time, disconnected from the issues they are fighting for, lost in the barrage of infotainment – our attention completely under arrest. We barely notice that the administration at Idinthakarai, Tamil Nadu, has set a chilling national record: the first time in independent India that 8000 cases of sedition have been filed at a single police station.

Aren’t these the freedom fighters of our times? By forcing into our collective mindscape a culture of dialogue, accountability and transparency, these activists are the real nation-builders. That the corporate state repeatedly tries to stifle their voices is no surprise, it’s a global phenomenon. What is unusual is the silence of those of us who can afford to speak out.

Perhaps we’ve all become too used to being mere consumers of democracy. Like the compromised poets in Benjamin Zephaniah‘s poem ‘Bought and Sold’; we’ve got a price tag for everything: elections, college seats, hospital beds, marital alliances, directive principles and even freedom. Our primary culture has become that of consumption and so we no longer know what it means to participate in the production of democracy.

But what if each of us decided to make our own little contribution to the creation of our shared cultures, to voice our common concerns, to make some noise? As Deepak Dengle asks in his poem from prison, “Who all will you arrest?/There are hundreds of birds of freedom, who all will you arrest?/We’ll take the cage and fly away and you won’t even know it” (Rough translation from the Hindi original)

Maybe it’s time to unplug those headphones and reconnect with the reality around us. If we all choose to exercise the freedom these activists are fighting for by singing their songs, reciting their poetry, or sharing their ideas with our colleagues at work, in schools and colleges, or on the bus back home, who can stop us? After all we’re all free to sing ‘Shiela Ki Jawani’, right?

So let’s make a racket and bring down this wall of silence. If a sound democracy is what we’re after, we’re going to have to tune ourselves in.

(For more information on the Kabir Kala Defence Committee you can log onto: )


‘Artists must stick together’, says writer-director-actor Girish Karnad


October 5, 2012 12:00:00 AM ISTMTG editorial

The Jnanpith award-winning writer Girish Karnad presided at the Music CD release function that was organised for Kabir Kala Manch at the Marathi Patrakar Sangh in Mumbai on October 4. The function was organised by theKabir Kala Manch Defence Committee, which is protesting against the injustice the group has been facing.

Girish Karnad

Kabir Kala Manch is a group mainly consisting of Dalit students and professionals from Pune who have been creating awareness about social issues through their Shahiri, protest songs and street plays. The group however found itself implicated by the State of Maharastra for alleged links to Maoists and Naxalites. Two of the group’s members- Deepak Dengle and Siddharth Bhonsle are in prison while other singer-poets and members of the group like Sheetal Sathe are underground for fear that they too might be wrongly imprisoned.

Their CD album titled ‘Hi Amchi Gani – Amcha Gunha Kay?’ (‘These are our songs- What is our crime?’) makes for spirited music decked in folk-form and is a compilation of 11 songs from their earlier two albums.

Girish Karnad while speaking at the programme said that the State cannot wrongly implicate people on the basis of draconian laws such as the UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act). Upholding Lokmanya Tilak‘s quote that ‘Swaraj is my birthright’; the veteran artist added that rebellion is the right of every individual too. He also said that in these times, artists must stick together. Other invited guests included advocate Mihir Desai, IPS officer Sudhakar SuradkarComrade Reddy and Dolly Thakore.

Click here for Kabir Kala Manch’s Songs and Poems

For further information visit

विद्रोह हा प्रत्येकाचा जन्मसिद्ध हक्क आहे – डॉ. गिरीश कर्नाड




कबीर कला मंच च्या सीडीचे प्रकाशन

मुंबई / अजेयकुमार जाधव

आज प्रत्येक स्वतंत्र नागरिकांना विद्रोह माझा जन्मसिद्ध हक्क आहे हे बोलण्याचा अधिकार आहे असे मत सुप्रसिद्ध नाट्य सिनेकलावंत डॉ. गिरीश कर्नाड यांनी व्यक्त केले.कबीर कला मंचच्या गाण्यांच्या सीडीचे प्रकाशन कर्नाड यांच्या हस्ते करण्यात आले त्यावेळी टे बोलत होते.

कोणत्याही कलाकारांच्या विरोधात अन्याय झाल्यास त्याचा निषेध करायलाच हवा.कबीर काल मंच हा दलित सांस्कृतिक ग्रुप आहे. यामधील कलाकार हे आपला अनुभव कथन करत होते यामुळे त्यांना देशाचे शत्रू समजून जेल मध्ये टाकले जाते. अशा लोकाना जेल मध्ये टाकणे चुकीचे आहे. समाजात ही भीती पसरवली जात असून पोलीसच ही भीती निर्माण करतात असे कर्नाड म्हणाले.

मावोइस्ट व नक्सालीस्ट याचे नेमके नियम काय आहेत असा प्रश्न उपस्थित करून जर या लोकांची पुस्तके घरी ठेवणे, वाचणे हे चुकीचे असेल तर माझ्या घरात मावोइस्ट व नक्सालीस्टची पुस्तके आहेत या पुस्तकांचे मी वाचन करतो म्हणून मी सुद्धा मावोइस्ट व नक्सालीस्ट आहे असे कर्नाड म्हणाले. विनायक सेन व असीम त्रिवेदी यांच्या बाबत सरकार वेगवेगळी भूमिका घेते याचा निषेध व्यक्त करून विद्रोही लेखक सुधीर धवळे यांना सोडवण्यासाठी जे काय करता येईल टे करून धवळे यांना सोडवण्यासाठी प्रयत्न करू असे कर्नाड म्हणाले.यावेळी डॉली ठाकूर, माजी पोलीस अधिकारी सुधाकर सुराडकर, कॉम्रेड प्रकाश रेड्डी उपस्थित होते.

Every artist has the right to be rebellious: Girish Karnad






Press Trust of India / Mumbai October 04, 2012, 21:05

Stating that “rebellion” is the right of every artist, veteran actor and filmmaker Girish Karnad today said reading or possessing books on Naxalism is not a crime.

The 74-year-old playwright said Aseem Trivedi, the political cartoonist who was charged with sedition by Mumbai Police, and human rights activist Binayak Sen, accused by the Chhattisgarh Government of having links with Naxals, received different treatment in the cases in which they were arrested.

“Aseem Trivedi was granted bail soon after he gathered support from various sections of the society. On the other hand, Binayak Sen was refused bail on several occasions,” Karnad said.

He was speaking at a programme organised by the Kabir Kala Manch (KKM) here this evening.

KKM is a cultural group consisting of Dalit “protest” singers and poets. Two activists of the Manch were arrested by Maharashtra Police last year for alleged Naxal links.

Calling the people associated with the organisation as “rebellious and enemy” of the state is unfair, the award-winning playwright maintained.

Lokmanya Tilak said Swaraj is my birthright. I would say rebellion is the right of every artist. An independent individual has every right to be rebellious.”

Karnad said there is no exact definition of Naxalism and Maoism. Claiming that he reads a lot on Maoism, the filmmaker questioned, “Does that mean I am a Maoist?”

“I have many books on Naxalism and Maoism. If reading books on Maoist ideology is a crime, then I am also a Maoist,” he state