Monthly Archives: June 2013

Sheetal Sathe of Kabir Kala Manch granted bail at last ! #Freekabirkalmanch

Standard

sheetal

Sheetal Sathe of the Kabir Kala Manch (KKM) was granted bail this morning by Justice Abhay Thipsay of the Bombay High Court. The move has come as a major relief for all those who have been fighting for her release especially in view of the fact that she is over 8 months pregnant and the Sessions Court had denied her bail.

It will be recalled that the KKM, a dalit and working class cultural troupe from Pune had gone underground after the Anti Terrorist Squad (ATS) arrested one of their members, Deepak Dengle and had begun describing the group as “Naxalites”.  Deepak was tortured in prison but released on bail after a year and a half along with 5 others when the Bombay High Court ruled that there were no grounds to keep them in jail even under the draconian provisions of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).

On April 2, 2013 emboldened by the court ruling, Sheetal Sathe and her husband Sachin Mali of the KKM voluntarily gave themselves up to the authorities in an act of satyagraha for the freedom of expression. A month later Sagar Gorkhe, Ramesh Gaichor, Jyoti Jagtap and Rupali Jadhav of the KKM also did a satyagraha in public, declaring that they had done no wrong and had come overground after getting confidence that civil society was willing to stand up for them.

The Kabir Kala Manch Defence Committee (KKMDC) formed after KKM went underground wishes to thank all those persons and organizations across India and abroad who sent letters and faxes and made phone calls to the government and the ATS. It really is through your efforts alone that the government realized that keeping the KKM unjustly in prison carries a price.

KKMDC will soon move the court to release remaining members of the KKM. We will need your continued support so that sooner rather than later, we hear them sing their songs of freedom and justice again.
Anand Patwardhan

for Kabir Kala Manch Defence Committee

27.06.13

 

Advertisements

#India: Stop Misuse of Counterterrorism Laws #KKM

Standard


Charges Against Dalit Performers Raise Free Speech Concerns

(New York, June 26, 2013) – Authorities in India should conduct an independent review of apparent politically motivated terrorism charges filed against performers in a Dalit cultural group, Human Rights Watch said today. 

Members of Kabir Kala Manch, charged in 2011 under India’s draconian counterterrorism laws, remain subject to prosecution for their alleged support of Maoist militants. One of them, eight months pregnant, was denied bail and must wait until June 27 for an appeals decision on her bail application. Indian courts have repeatedly ruled that ideological sympathy should not be interpreted as active membership in a banned organization.

“The Indian authorities should not conflate shared sympathy for concerns about oppression and social inequity expressed by the Maoists with criminal complicity in violence,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The government should ensure that peaceful activists can speak out without fear of terrorism charges.”

India’s counterterrorism and sedition laws have been widely misused to target political opponents, tribal groups, religious and ethnic minorities, and Dalits, Human Rights Watch said. Amendments made to the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in 2008 and 2012 could result in further misuse. 

In 2011, authorities in the western Indian state of Maharashtra charged 15 people with being members of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) – also known as Naxalites. Eleven of them have been arrested, six of whom are members of Kabir Kala Manch, a Pune-based cultural group of singers, poets, and artists. The group, largely consisting of Dalit youth, uses music, poetry, and street plays to raise awareness about issues such as oppression of Dalits and tribal groups, social inequality, corruption, and Hindu-Muslim relations. 

The state counterterrorism squad arrested two Kabir Kala Manch members, Dhavala K. Dhengale and Siddharth Bhosale, in May 2011. Dhengale’s lawyers allege he was tortured in police custody and was forced to make a confession, which he has retracted. Police also brought cases against four other members of the cultural group, who subsequently went into hiding. 

The authorities accused the six of being members of a “terrorist organization” under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967. If convicted, they face sentences of up to life in prison. They have also been charged under numerous penal provisions dealing with extortion, cheating, and forgery. 

In January 2013, the High Court in Mumbai granted bail to Dhengale and Bhosale, noting that the charges filed indicated that they were sympathetic to the Maoist philosophy but not active members of the Maoist organization. The court said that “drastic provisions” added to the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in 2008 required that membership in an illegal organization be interpreted in the light of fundamental freedoms such as the rights to free speech and expression, and thus “passive membership” was insufficient for prosecution. 

Following the court order, in April and May, the four other members of Kabir Kala Manch –Sheetal Sathe, Sachin Mali, Sagar Gorke, and Ramesh Gaichor – who had been named in the 2011 case, turned themselves in. All four remain in judicial custody as they wait for the police to file charges. A lower sessions court in Mumbai denied bail to Sathe, who is eight months pregnant. 

“This is not the first time social activists have come under attack or been arbitrarily arrested on unsubstantiated accusations of Maoist links,” Ganguly said. “Wrongful arrests of peaceful activists only hurt the government’s image and provide a fertile ground for Maoist propaganda.” 

Dr. Binayak Sen, a physician and human rights activist, was convicted in December 2010 and sentenced to life in prison for sedition, for allegedly acting as a courier for a Naxalite leader in jail, even though he had visited the leader under the supervision of jail authorities. After his arrest in 2007, Sen was awarded the prestigious Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights, and rights groups and doctors’ organizations have campaigned for his release. Sen has appealed his conviction, and the Supreme Court in April 2011 ordered his release on bail in the interim saying: “We are a democratic country. He may be a sympathizer. That does not make him guilty of sedition.”

Human Rights Watch has repeatedly called on the Indian government to revise the definition of terrorism, and ensure that restrictions on organizations do not violate the rights to freedom of association and expression under international law. Human Rights Watch has also urged the repeal of provisions in the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, such as those authorizing pre-charge detention for up to 180 days including 30 days in police custody, limitations on bail, and presumption of guilt in certain circumstances.

“Instead of arresting people who are using art to raise their voices against poor governance and social malaise, the government should focus on better safeguards for fundamental freedoms,” Ganguly said. “Too often, police, frustrated by their inability to stem criminal acts by various armed groups, have misused the law to arrest critics, social activists, or ideological supporters of these groups.”

To view the 2010 Human Rights Watch report “Back to the Future: India’s 2008 Counterterrorism Laws,” please visit:
http://www.hrw.org/reports/2010/07/28/back-future-0

To read the December 2012 Human Rights Watch news release “India: Reject Amendments to Counterterrorism Law,” please visit:
http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/12/14/india-reject-amendments-counterterrorism-law

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on India, please visit:
http://www.hrw.org/asia/india

 

If pregnant Sheetal Sathe has to remain in detention, she must have adequate health care #KKM

Standard

Photo: Amnesty International India asks authorities in the state of Maharashtra to ensure that if Sheetal Sathe, an arrested theatre activist, is to continue to be detained pending trial, she receives access to adequate pre-natal and post-natal care.

Sheetal Sathe is a member of Kabir Kala Manch, a group which uses protest music and theatre to campaign on human rights issues, including Dalit rights and caste-based violence and discrimination. She and her husband Sachin Mali were two of 15 people charged on 17 April 2011 of being members of, and supporting and recruiting for, the Communist Party of India (Maoist), a banned armed group, among other charges.

Sheetal Sathe is eight months pregnant, and Amnesty International India is concerned about her health needs, in particular her need for adequate nutrition and pre-natal and post-natal care. A rights activist who has met Sathe after her arrest, told Amnesty International India that Sathe does not receive adequately nutritious food or appropriate health care.Read More: http://t.co/AI2OclBX0Z

Amnesty International India asks authorities in the state of Maharashtra to ensure that if Sheetal Sathe, an arrested theatre activist, is to continue to be detained pending trial, she receives access to adequate pre-natal and post-natal care.

Sheetal Sathe is a member of Kabir Kala Manch, a group which uses protest music and theatre to campaign on human rights issues, including Dalit rights and caste-based violence and discrimination. She and her husband Sachin Mali were two of 15 people charged on 17 April 2011 of being members of, and supporting and recruiting for, the Communist Party of India (Maoist), a banned armed group, among other charges.

Sathe could not be traced by the police until 2 April 2013, when she and Mali appeared before the legislative assembly in Maharashtra in what they said was a protest against the charges made against them. Both were arrested, and Sathe is at present in judicial custody in a jail in Byculla, Mumbai. Her applications for bail have been rejected by trial courts in Mumbai.

Sheetal Sathe is eight months pregnant, and Amnesty International India is concerned about her health needs, in particular her need for adequate nutrition and pre-natal and post-natal care. A rights activist who has met Sathe after her arrest, told Amnesty International India that Sathe does not receive adequately nutritious food or appropriate health care.

Amnesty International reminds authorities that both Indian and international law make a presumption in favour of pre-trial release for all persons accused of penal offences. As specified in article 9(3) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which India is a state party, it must not be the general rule to hold people in custody pending trial. The right to liberty of the person requires that deprivation of liberty should always be the exception, and imposed only if it is justified, necessary, reasonable and proportionate in the circumstances of the case. All possible non-custodial measures, such as bail or undertaking to appear, must be explored by the judicial authority before making a decision to remand in custody, and such detention must be regularly reviewed by a judicial authority.

The Supreme Court of India has said in several cases, including recently in Sanjay Chandra versus CBI in 2011, that bail should be the rule and detention in jail the exception, and that refusal of bail can be a restriction on the right to personal liberty guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

With regard to pregnant women in particular, the UN General Assembly, in adopting the UN Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners (“Bangkok Rules”), has emphasized that non-custodial measures should be preferred when deciding on pre-trial measures for pregnant women.

States have an obligation under international law to respect and ensure the right to health of prisoners. Specifically with regard to pregnant women, international standards require that if pregnant women are detained, the authorities must ensure that they receive regular health check-ups, adequate nutrition and proper pre-natal and post-natal care, including advice on their health and diet under a programme drawn up and monitored by a qualified health practitioner. Pregnant women must not be detained unless such facilities are provided.

Whenever possible, arrangements should be made for children to be born in a hospital outside the place of detention. Thereafter, special provision must be made for detained women with infants, taking full account of the best interests of the child.

These measures were also issued as directions by the Supreme Court of India in the case of RD Upadhyay versus State of Andhra Pradesh, and are included in the Model Prison Manual for the Superintendence and Management of Prisons in India.

Amnesty International India urges authorities in Maharashtra to ensure that Sheetal Sathe is provided with appropriate pre-natal and post-natal care, including adequate nutrition, as required by national and international law and standards. If authorities cannot ensure that she is provided with adequate care, then alternatives to custody, such as release on bail or personal bond, should be used.

Background Information

In April 2011, the Anti-Terror Squad of the Maharashtra Police arrested Angela Sontakke, who they claim is a senior member of the Communist Party of India (Maoist), and filed charges against 15 Kabir Kala Manch members for allegedly having links with her. Subsequently they arrested six other persons. On 20 July 2011, the police filed a chargesheet against all seven arrested persons, and eight others who could not be located, including Sheetal Sathe and Sachin Mali, under India’s principal anti-terror legislation, the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).

In October 2012, the Bombay High Court granted bail to two of the seven arrested activists. The same court granted bail to four other arrested activists in January 2013, observing, “the membership of a terrorist gang or organization as contemplated by (the UAPA) has to be treated as an active membership which results in participation of the acts of the terrorist gang or organization which are performed for carrying out the aims and objects of such gang or organization by use of violence or other unlawful means.” The court also observed that “speaking about corruption, social inequality, exploitation of the poor, etc. and desiring that a better society should come in existence is not banned in our country…even the expression of views to the effect that a change in the social order can be brought about only by a revolution would not amount to an offence.”

The UAPA, under which Sheetal Sathe and Sachin Mali have been charged, uses sweeping and overbroad definitions of ‘acts of terrorism’ and ‘membership’ of ‘unlawful’ organizations, and does not comply with India’s international legal obligations

Amendments to the UAPA in 2008 extended the minimum period of detention of suspects from 15 to 30 days and the maximum period of such detention from 90 to 180 days, avoided adequate pre-trial safeguards against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of detainees and reversed certain evidential burdens of grave crimes and required, in certain circumstances, the accused persons to prove their innocence.

Human rights groups in India have highlighted several instances where the UAPA has been abused, with the use of fabricated evidence and false charges to detain activists defending the rights of Adivasi and Dalit communities and peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and association.

Anti Nuke song by Kabir Kala Manch – English Translation

Standard

This is a song is from the  second CD of Kabir Kala Manch called  –Rajya Daman Virodhi shahiri, ok aadhar par khadha jan andolan – song is called -JAITAPURCHYA NAVAN  by RAMESH GAICHOR, who is now languishing in arthur road jail in Mumbai

Chernobyl was destroyed, Fukushima was ruined

Now the nuclear disaster is scheduled to hit Jaitapur (2)

Nuclear power is very dangerous

The Uranium tender is destructive

Toxic nuclear waste of thousands of years –

How will we deal with the explosion of the nuclear reactor?

Nuclear science experts are goddamn liars,

Riding a wave of delusive science.

(Refrain)

All pimps have gathered here,

opposition parties with saffron flags

This is a market of ravens,

one corrupt than the other

Thieves and dacoits surround us,

Some adorn khadi, some wear khaki

(Refrain)

The radiation poisoning will spread

Konkan will soon be converted into a crematorium

This poison called radiation will spread into how many things?

Poison will enter the alphonso mangoes

Poison will enter flesh of the jackfruit

Poison will enter cashews and jamun

Poison will enter Palm trees

Poison will enter parboiled rice

Poison will enter raagi roti

Poison will enter karavanda (black berries), kokam

Poison will enter unshelled rice

Poison will enter fish curry

Poison will enter prawns and other clams and crabs

Poison will enter cow’s milk

Poison will enter sweet honey

Poison will enter suru-forest

Poison will enter flowers and leaves

Poison will enter festival of shimga (holi fire)

Poison will enter grains and particles

Poison will enter sea waves

Poison will enter farms, fields and irrigation water canals

Poison will enter soil of Konkan

Poison will enter folks of Konkan

Mother’s milk will be poisonous

The Western Ghats will turn poisonous

(Refrain)

The mall owners need high voltage of electricity

And also three star and five star hoteliers

Bungalow owners, high and mighty people

They will drive away all locals

They will make a beggar out of the king of the sea

To embellish their lavish lives

(Refrain)

Let us carry the flag of Bharat

Let us remember Kabir’s sacrifice

We will light the fire of movement

Will knock them back if they knock us

No looking back now, let us march forward

Let us walk the path of Nandigram

(Refrain)

  Translation – Jayashree Joshi

Listen to the song below

 

A Fallujah-Bastar Road #KKM

Standard
State policy must honour KKM’s handling of their Maoist ‘guilt’
ANAND PATWARDHAN,  Outlook June 24, 2013

Our democracy, like another it attempts to emulate, takes one step forward, two steps back. A victim of paranoia like the one it emulates, it is undermining its own founding principles by emphasising order and wilfully sacrificing the law. Without the guiding hand of a civil society conscious of its rights, it may well fall on its face, as it did during the Emergency.

In April 2013, when Sheetal Sathe and Sachin Mali of the Kabir Kala Manch (KKM) did a satyagraha for freedom of expression and gave themselves up outside the state assembly to an anti-terrorist squad (ATS) that had supposedly been hunting for them for two years, it seemed to have established a healthy precedent. Within a month, encouraged by the fact that under intense public scrutiny no torture of the arrested took place, Ramesh Gaichor and Sagar Gorkhe of the KKM also gave themselves up, expecting that the due process of law would restore their freedom of expression.

The KKM is a Pune-based cultu­ral troupe largely composed of wor­king class Dalit poets and art­istes. Two years ago, they went und­erground after a member, Deepak Dengle, was arrested and tortured into giving a ‘confession’ by the ATS. The ATS implicated him and others under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) as persons associated with a banned Naxalite party. It may be recalled that the ATS notoriously got similar ‘confessions’ from Muslims, who ‘admitted’ to bombing their own mosque at Malegaon. When Hindu terrorists later owned up to the bombing, the ATS was left with not just egg on its face, but the blood of innocents on its hands. Torture is an unreliable method of investigation.

After a KKM defence committee was formed by members of a civil society that had begun to learn about and appreciate its cultural and political contributions, the media started to take positive notice. Finally, in March 2013, Justice Abhay Thipsay of the Bombay High Court in a landmark judgement granted bail to six accused under the UAPA, including Dengle. The judgement pointed out that while it wasn’t proven that the accused were Naxalites, even assuming they were, merely belonging to a banned body did not constitute a crime. The Thipsay judgement followed logically from an SC judgement upholding the principle that even under the UAPA, which criminalises membership of a banned outfit, a distinction had to be made between active and inactive members. These judgments helped those who argued that under no circumstances can one criminalise expression.

Back in April, we learnt that the KKM’s Sheetal was six months pregnant. Thankfully, she was remanded to judicial custody. The government prosecutor said they were not asking for her police custody, as they did not want to risk harming her baby! Does one need more proof of what is considered routine in police custody?

Since then two months have elapsed. In the sessions court Sheetal’s bail hearing kept getting delayed, and was finally rejected. Bail is denied to those who might run away. Sheetal and the KKM came out of hiding voluntarily and are hardly a security risk. Yet, her baby may now be born in jail.

It is nobody’s case that the KKM participated in violence, but there are two possibilities. One is that they were mistaken as Naxalites because of the militant nature of their songs. The other is that they were attracted by Naxalite ideology, but later changed their minds. It is the latter that prevents their release. The government does have a mechanism where Naxalites, even those with a violent past, are given financial rew­ards in return for turning state wit­nesses. Such people are relocated at government expense and given ‘protection’, but are regarded as mercenaries by their own and often lose self-respect. The KKM chose a third, more honourable path. They deny any wrong-doing and refuse to turn approvers. They merely express the desire to live an open life in a democracy. Will they be granted this space?

Meanwhile, in court and in the media, the atmosphere has changed. The massacre in Chhattisgarh has seen to that. Horrific as the event was, the indiscriminate use of state violence in tribal areas and the use of draconian measures in court, together with the blanket tarring of all dissidents, can only aggravate the situation. Naxalites are undeniably fighting for and with the most oppressed people. It is their hearts and minds that must be won. Increased state repression will do the opposite. Attempting to restore order while abandoning the rule of law will do exactly what the bombing of Iraq and Afghanistan did to restore democracy.


(Anand Patwardhan is a documentary film-maker)

 

#India- Why Is This Pregnant Woman Still In Jail ? #Vaw #Womenrights #mustshare

Standard

Denied bail again, Sheetal Sathe may give birth behind bars. Is this the human face of justice?

ANAND PATWARDHAN

15-06-2013, Issue 24 Volume 10

ON 2 JUNE, eight months pregnant,  (KKM) activist was denied bail by the Mumbai Sessions Court. Sheetal, along with her husband and other members of the cultural group, had come overground in full media glare in April this year after being accused by the Anti- Terror Squad of the Mumbai police of being Naxalites.

They had courted arrest voluntarily, and had chosen to face the due process of law. But clearly, this system is faulty. Bail is usually denied when there is a possibility of the accused running away, but in this particular case, since the accused gave themselves up there are no grounds to suggest that they are going to run away.

Denying bail to somebody who is eight months pregnant is inhuman. It looks increasingly certain that Sheetal and Sachin’s child will be born in jail. We all know what conditions in jail are like. The food is extremely poor at the best of times. Hygiene is non-existent. Though Sheetal is getting medical checkups, her nutrition remains a major cause for concern.

There is not much to prove that these people — youths who use music and poetry, not guns, to protest the institutionalised inequalities rampant in our country — are Naxalites. Even if you assume that they were in some way attracted to the ideology, the Supreme Court has established that mere membership of a banned organisation is not something punishable by itself, in that there is a distinction between active and passive membership of a banned outfit. In fact, the Bombay High Court granted bail to Deepak Dengle and Siddharth Bhonsle, two other members of the KKM who were arrested in 2011 in the same case under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, saying that sympathy for an ideology does not incriminate someone. It was that decision that gave Sheetal and Sachin hope for a fair hearing.

These people have not committed a violent crime. Even the State does not accuse them of having committed one. They are being victimised for what they think, or to put it more accurately, what the State assumes they think. By restricting people from singing songs, performing plays or speaking out against injustice, it is reducing the space for dissent a democracy naturally allows. If people are not allowed to voice their grievances publicly, they will be pushed underground. So, in effect, the State is forcing people like them to go against the law.

The  attack in Chhattisgarh has also negatively impacted the general atmosphere. If anyone is accused of being a Naxalite in these volatile times, it becomes a very hard thing to overcome in court or in society.

We are trying to go to the High Court as soon as possible, hopefully before the baby is born. In Sheetal’s case, of course, bail is urgent, but it is important to remember that this is not just an injustice to her. It is an injustice to all the accused who were expecting a chance to have their side of the story heard. In a country where people accused of masterminding the fixing of lucrative cricket matches are given bail in no time, why are radical musicians and performers, one of whom is pregnant, being denied bail? Does justice in this country depend on one’s bank balance?

Patwardhan is a founding member of the Kabir Kala Manch Defence Committee.

(As told to Nupur Sonar)

letters@tehelka.com

 

Pregnant Sheetal Sathe of Ka bir Kala Manch denied bail

Standard

Express news service : Wed Jun 05 2013,

A SEWREE fast track court Tuesday rejected radical musical group Kabir Kala Manch (KKM) activist Sheetal Sathe’s bail application. After being underground for over two years, Sathe (27), who is eight months pregnant, surfaced outside Mantralaya in April along with her husband Sachin Mali (27) and had courted arrest.

They were declared absconding accused in a case registered in 2011 against 15 persons for their alleged role in supporting and funding Naxal activities in the state. Sathe and Mali are facing charges under several sections of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for their alleged involvement with the banned organisation Communist Party of India (Maoist). While seven persons were arrested in 2010, Sathe, Mali and six others were declared absconding accused.

Her lawyer Vijay Hiremath had moved the bail application on humanitarian grounds soon after her arrest. Sathe and Mali had gone underground in the wake of arrests of other KKM members in 2010. However, following their release on bail, the couple courted arrest. They were arrested on April 2 by Maharashtra ATS. A month later, two more KKM members courted arrest.

“Sympathy for Maoist philosophy with a likelihood to indulge in various violent activities is not sufficient ground to conclude that the accused are presently active members of the terrorist organization,” the Bombay High Court had held while granting bail to four KKM members last year.

mumbai.newsline@expressindia.com