Reporting without checking the facts — Kabir Kala Manch: Satyagraha not Surrender

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To the Editor and Manager, The Hindustan Times

Dear sir
Yesterday (8th April 2013) your national page carried a completely false and defamatory report on a so called “surrender” under a Maharashtra State government scheme that offers inducements to Naxalites who surrender.

You will be sued for this false and defamatory report if you do not prominently carry on your national page, this letter with an accompanying photograph of the event that gives a truer picture of the issue.

About the event you wrongfully reported, I personally witnessed the following:

4 members of the Kabir Kala Manch, a cultural troupe from Pune who had been accused of being associated with Naxalites by the State and had consequently gone into hiding for two years, did a Satyagraha for their freedom of expression.

At 3 PM on April 7 Sagar Gorkhe, Rupali Jadhav, Ramesh Gaichor and Jyoti Jadhav arrived at Dr. Ambedkar’s statue in South Mumbai with their lawyers and members of the Kabir Kala Manch Defense Committee, which included Dr. Ambedkar’s grandson Prakash Ambedkar, Comrade Prakash Reddy of the CPI and myself. Here, in front of the media, they sang songs, made speeches and distributed leaflets declaring that they were not guilty and were coming over-ground to fight for their freedom of expression and submit themselves to the rule of law. After paying a floral tribute to Dr. Ambedkar and distributing CDs of their songs they walked down to the Mantralaya. The Anti Terrorist Squad (ATS) who had declared them wanted under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, were nowhere to be seen for over two hours. Finally the “wanted” walked down to Prakash Ambedkar’s nearby office still accompanied by media. An hour later Home Minister R.R. Patil agreed to meet the group in his Mantralaya office. In front of the Home Minister the KKM sang a “Lal Salaam” (Red Salute) song while wearing blue headbands that signaled their affinity to the Dalit cause. The ATS finally arrived. They arrested Sagar and Ramesh but chose not to arrest their spouses Rupali and Jyoti. The next day, the two arrested were officially sent to ATS custody for a further 6 days of “questioning”.

The KKM has denied that they are members of any banned organization and therefore the question of surrender does not arise. The implication that a “surrender” took place under a State policy that offers financial inducements in return for information, gravely damages the reputation of this brave and principled cultural troupe. It also defames members of the Kabir Kala Manch Defense Committee that accompanied them at the Satyagaraha. We demand an unconditional apology from the Hindustan Times. The apology should be followed by our letter of protest along with a photograph of the KKM Satyagraha that is herewith attached. We reserve the further right to sue you for defamation, if the visibility accorded to our letter of protest and your unconditional apology is insufficient.

Anand Patwardhan, for Kabir Kala Manch Defence Committee

 

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