Tag Archives: Anand Patwardhan

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

Pune’s cultural group members surrender before police

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Written by Saurabh Gupta | Updated: May 09, 2013 NDTV

MumbaiFour more members of Pune-based cultural group Kabir Kala Manch handed themselves over to the police for questioning on Tuesday in Mumbai.
The Kabir Kala Manch is a Pune based cultural group who have performed their unique brand of political theatre, poetry and music encompassing issues of class, caste, environment and human rights. The police have accused them of having naxalite links.Last month Sheetal Sathe and Sachin Mali who had spent two years in hiding gave themselves up outside the state assembly. SheetalOn Tuesday, four members who had been in hiding presented themselves before the public in front of Babasaheb Ambedkar‘s statue near the state secretariat. The group then met Maharashtra Home Minister RR Patil and presented some of their songs before him.

After meeting them, Mr Patil told reporters “After the government’s appeal there must have been a change of mind on their behalf. They have decided to fight this in court in a legal manner. The police will not harass them. The government has made its policy clear. If someone who has naxalite links or is accused of having naxalite links comes forward, the government is willing to talk to them.”

Speaking to NDTV, Filmmaker and Activist Anand Patwardhan said, “This is a satyagraha and they are saying we have done no wrong. We are willing to submit ourselves through the new process of law.”

But Mr Patwardhan has defended them saying, “After incidents like Khairlanji and the lack of justice in the Ramabai firing case their songs became more militant and the state interpreted them as some kind of extremism. To my knowledge they have never been charged with any kind of violence.”

The Kabir Kala Manch Defence Committee has appealed for a speedy disposition of the cases that have been slapped against the members of the troupe.

 

Kabir Kala Manch activists surrender, deny having any links with maoists #KKM

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<kkm4 pic courtesy- indian exppress -Ramesh Gaichor, Sagar Gorkhe and their wives Jyoti Jagtap and Rupali Jadhav outside Oval Maidan Tuesday. Ganesh Shirsekar

The Hindu, May 7, 2013

In a theatrical turn of events which included, singing revolutionary songs in the office of Maharashtra’s Home minister RR Patil after being asked for the same by him, posing with him for photographs and waiting for more than three hours for the officers from Maharashtra Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) to come and arrest, two alleged Maoists on Tuesday surrendered in Mumbai.

Four members of Kabir Kala Manch (KKM), a cultural group alleged to be having links with Maoists, on Tuesday afternoon staged Satyagraha near Mantralaya in South Mumbai. They are being accused as Maoists and absconders by the police under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).

“We are artists. We perform for people and we sing songs which highlight the plight of people and of those who fight against the corrupt system. We are being falsely implicated in cases and wrongly framed as Maoists. We have done nothing but to sing songs,” said Ramesh Gaichor, one of the members of KKM.

All four, Rupali Jadhav, Hyoti Jagtap, Sagar Gorkhe and Ramesh Gaichor were accompanied by members of KKM Defence Committee, which included film-maker Anand Patwardhan, Adv Prakash Ambedkar, grandson of Dr. BR Ambedkar and president of Bharip Bahujan Mahasangh and Prakash Reddy of Communist Party of India (CPI).Ramesh Gaichor (28) and Sagar Gorkhe (27) along with their wives Jyoti Jagtap (26) and Rupali Jadhav (27) came to Oval Maidan at 3 pm.For two hours, they sang protest songs and gave out audio CDs to the crowd near the statue of B R Ambedkar. The group, along with Prakash Reddy of CPI, film maker Anand Patwardhan and Bharipa Bahujan Mahasabha‘s Prakash Ambedkar, went to Patil’s office at Mantralaya at 5 pm.https://kabirkalamanch.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=467&action=edit&message=10#category-add

Ms. Jagtap, another member of KKM said that the four are staging satyagraha because they want their name to be cleared from the ATS wanted list. “We want to sing once again, but want to do it openly. We want all the accusations against us to be cleared because we are not Maoists,” she said.

Ms. Jadhav alleged that ATS teams have been visiting her house and threatening her mother. “They told her that I was killed in encounter in Gadchiroli. I see no reason in torturing our families. We are artists and not criminals,” she said.

To the surprise of all, none of the officials from state ATS turned up to arrest the alleged Maoists, two of whom are named wanted in the charge sheet filed in the court.

All four were then taken to the office of the Mr. Patil, where he was presented with an audio CD of group’s songs after which he even asked them to sing one of the songs. Mr. Patil even called all four of them for a group photograph. It was only after the home minister of Maharashtra informed the ATS chief Rakesh Maria over the telephone, that the ATS came to know about the satyagraha of ‘wanted’ Maoists, inside the administrative headquarter of Maharashtra.

The ATS team arrived at the office of Mr. Patil at 6 PM, after which it was informed that the custody of two females is not required and then can go home.

“We demand that all members of the KKM who have voluntarily come forward to face interrogation, must be granted bail speedily. There is no logic to detaining people who give themselves up, as they are obviously not going to run away,” said the statement issued by KKM Defence Committee.

Torch light Procession and protest meet in support of KKM at Gorakhpur

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 Protest at Gorakhpur in support of KKM Gorakhpur, U.P.,4 May, 2013   The cultural activists and intellectuals of Gorakhpur under the banner of Jan sanskriti manch ,brought out a torchlight procession on saturday evening protesting state repression on the revolutionery Dalit cultural organisation Kabir kala Manch of Pune, Maharashtra. Before taking out the procession they assembled at Press club at 4 p.m. and conducted a protest meeting. Speakers at the meeting passed a resolution seeking immediate release of Sheetal Sathe & Sachin Mali, revocation of all false cases  against KKM, social security for their family members and demanded unfettered freedom to continue their cultural activities  . Apart from Jan sanskriti Manch, representatives of IPTA. PUHR and other mass organisations also participated in the meeting as well as torchlight procession. Speakers narrated how repression against KKM started with the arrest of Deepak Dengle and Siddhaarth Bhonsale of KKM under UAPA by the ATS in May 2011 forcing other activists of KKM to go underground. As soon as the bail was granted to Dengle & Bhonsale, Sheetal & Sachin were arrested from the premises of Maharashtra state Assembly where they were on ‘Satyagrah’ asserting their  ‘right to expression’. Speakers highlighted the fact that KKM activists had emerged from the poor, labouring class and dalit background and their  cultural work is directed towards harnessing peoples’ opinion and raising popular consciousness  against social oppression,  economic exploitation, loot and plunder of natural resources by transnational capital and state repression on struggling people. It is this orientation of their cultural work which has prompted Anti-people government to dub them ‘naxals’ or  ‘Maoists’ and frame them under draconian laws.  The imperialist and state agencies stage costly and vulgar shows in the name of culture and seek to co-opt the artists and intellectuals into the system. The cultural movements such as KKM  run counter to such hegemonic cultural strategies of the ruling classes. The torchlight procession started immediately after the meeting. It passed through district court chauraha, chetna tiraha, Golghar , townhall and culminated at press club from where it had started.  Manoj Kumar Singh, Natonal Secretary, Jan sanskriti Manch ,Noted novelist Madan Mohan, literay critic Anil Rai, poets Pramod Kumar, Ved Prakash and Ramu Siddhartha, Dr. Mumtaz Khan of IPTA, Prof. Asim Satyadev, CPI(ML) district secretary Rajesh Sahni, AIPWA district secretary Jagdamba, Advocate Subhash Pal, Ashok Chowdhary, district convenor, JSM, cultural & social  activists Rajaram Chowdhary, Shivnandan Sahay , Anand Pandey, Baijnath Mishra, Haridwar Prasad, R.K. Singh, Syed Akhtar Ali, Maneesh Chowbey, Ashish KumarArun Kumar, Arvind Kumar Barnwal , Niten Agrawal and several others participated in the meeting and procession. Released by Manoj Kumar Singh, National secretary, Jan sanskriti Manch .

 

India – That shrinking space for dissent #Protest

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RIGHT TO PROTEST

April 27, 2013, Times Crest 

The government’s action against the Kabir Kala Manch in Maharashtra as a naxalite outfit shows us just why we need to defend our right to protest, writes Anand Patwardhan

On July 11, 1997, Ramabai Colony in Ghatkopar, Mumbai, had awoken to find its statue of Dr Ambedkar desecrated with a garland of footwear. As angry residents poured onto the adjacent highway, the state’s Reserve Police Force arrived and opened fire, killing ten. In grief, poet-singer Vilas Ghogre hung himself in his hut in nearby Mulund.

I had loved and recorded Vilas’s music over many years and tried to understand why a Marxist like him had reasserted his Dalit identity by tying a blue bandanna as he died. I explored class and caste and followed other poet-musicians like Vilas who used their art for emancipation. The 10th year of this journey brought me back to Ramabai Colony where a commemoration was in progress to honour the martyrs of Ramabai and Khairlanji. After the rape and massacre of Dalits in Khairlanji village in 2006, protests had flared across Maharashtra. The government cracked down, describing them as “Maoist inspired”. Three years later it gave Khairlanji village an award for being a model of peace (” Tantamukti Gaon” ).

On 11 July, 2007, the sense of outrage and injustice was palpable at Ramabai Colony. Many musicians performed. But the most electric of all was a young group from Pune, the Kabir Kala Manch (KKM). As Sheetal Sathe’s strong, clear voice rang out, the words piercing hearts and minds, I knew that the legacy of Vilas Ghogre would never die.

I began to follow the KKM, filming their public performances, speaking with Sheetal’s mother who despite her faith in the “goddess” tolerated the growing rational consciousness of the children she had educated. KKM lent support to a range of movements that had taken on the venality of the system, from Medha Patkar‘s non-violence to their own Mahatma Phule-inspired movement for intercaste marriage.

Atrocities like Khailanji began to make KKM more edgy. Ambedkar was now interwoven with Marx and the young believers challenged an older generation that had settled for crumbs from the high table. Yet nothing about the KKM was dogmatic and they remained internally democratic. Sachin the published poet, and Sheetal and Sagar, the accomplished musicians, saw to it that everyone got a chance to sing, write and perform.

In 2011, I lost contact with the group, but soon understood the reason. Deepak Dengle of the KKM had been arrested by the Anti Terrorist Squad (ATS), accused of being a Naxalite. A startled KKM went underground even as Sheetal’s mother insisted that her children would fight only with “song and drum”.

Police-planted articles began to appear in the media. Accusations against KKM drew on “confessions” obtained in police custody like the one by Deepak Dengle alleging that KKM attended a meeting where Maoists were present. Deepak subsequently withdrew his statement stating that it was obtained under torture. He was recently released on bail after the Bombay High Court held that alleged membership of a banned outfit could not constitute grounds for detention, that an actual crime or intention to commit one would have to be proved. Deepak, after his release, described how acid was used on his back during torture and how his family was threatened.

In 2012, a few citizens and I had formed a Kabir Kala Manch Defence Committee, fearing for the lives of those branded as Naxalites. We met the chief minister of Maharashtra and the home minister, who informed us that the charges against the KKM were not serious. Finally we were overjoyed when a lawyer friend informed us that Sheetal and Sachin had made contact and wanted to come overground. To prevent the police from claiming they had “caught” them, the surfacing was arranged outside the state assembly, in full public glare. Prakash Ambedkar and CPI leaders accompanied members of our committee as Sheetal and Sachin sang a song, declaring that their action was not “surrender”, but a “satyagraha” for the freedom of expression.

Eventually the ATS arrived to collect its quarry. We met the CM that evening and he promised to prevent torture. In court the next day, Sheetal, who is pregnant, was sent directly into judicial custody while Sachin was remanded to ATS questioning for two weeks. We learnt that although Sachin was not allowed to sleep for three days, there was no physical torture. Meanwhile, the volume of support for KKM was so sustained that the ATS switched off its fax machines. But they countered through the mainstream media that Sachin and Sheetal were indeed Naxalites.

Are they? I see them as fiery idealists who are fighting to make our society just and equitable. Does that distinguish them from Naxalites? The ATS seems confused. To me the distinction lies in the fact that the only weapon Sachin and Sheetal fight with is their poetry and song.

But in the worst-case, even if it were concluded that they made contact with a banned organisation, what bewilders me is the question of what the state wants from them now? They gave themselves up. They expressed the desire to sing freely again within the bounds of democracy. Other members from their group are still underground, obviously watching to see what the state does. What message is the state sending? That it prefers to brand them as Naxalites and push them into the forest rather than allow them safe passage?

Last week, Sheetal’s bail was refused. Neither she nor Sachin are accused of any act of violence. Are people who give themselves up going to run away? Surely our democracy needs their song.

The writer is a documentary filmmaker

 

Free Kabir Kala Manch- Raptivist A-List

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NEW MUSIC: FREE KABIR KALA MANCH – A LIST

admin| April 20, 2013, zomba.in

Mumbai Social ‘Raptivist A-List is back on your speakers with a new joint called ‘Free Kabir Kala Manch’, and you know it’s not about a party. This time the emcee who has become some kind of social commentator, teams up once again with his comrade rapper/producer Shyn9n from Srinagar (they collaborated on ‘Tale of Afzal Guru) as they tackle the issue of the ‘Kabir Kala Manch’ a group that has been charged with involvement in Naxalite activities and members imprisoned by the Maharashtra government .
As always strong in his opinions, A-list explains why he has chosen to ally with this perceived group of outlaws…

“I have followed the Kabir Kala Manch case closely for a while now. These are just protest poets, not naxals. ..

They fight with pens and microphones, not guns and bombs. As a protest musician myself, I feel a deep solidarity with them and felt the need to rap about the injustice they are facing….just like many rappers have made songs to express their desire to freeMumia-Abu Jamal in America.”

The delivery style is simpler and less detailed than his previous songs which adds emphasis on content, which we guess was the rappers intention.
A-List also takes the opportunity to take a dig at the Indian indie music scene, saying they stand for nothing, unlike Bob Dylan and Tupac who stood for principles…

“Please note there are no charges of violence,
It’s a cheap joke, we’ve largely been silent,
They sing of malnutrition and farmer suicides,
On that Bhagat Singh shit, this is martyr’s music right,
The real Bob Dylans, Tupacs of the nation,
While indie scene is just a simulation”

The song is freely available for download and like most of A-List’s tracks, it’s a stand-alone single for the cause.  You can expect to see him perform it at upcoming open mics and protest concerts.

Listen to ‘Free Kabir Kala Manch’ below and let us know what you think about the track

https://soundcloud.com/alistrap/free-kabir-kala-manch-produced

 

Support pours in for arrested Sheetal Sathe and Sachin Mali

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, TNN | Apr 21, 2013, 0

Support pours in for arrested 'Naxal' duo
Letters of support have been pouring in from all over the world, including countries like France, Canada, UK, Thailand, Portugal and Germany, for the jailed couple  of Kabir Kala Manch, Sheetal Sathe ansd Sachin Mali
MUMBAI: Letters of support have been pouring in from all over the world, including countries like France, Canada, UK, Thailand, Portugal and Germany, for the jailed couple of Kabir Kala Manch, Sheetal Sathe ansd Sachin Mali, written in English and French, request the Arthur Road and the Byculla women’s prison authorities to not torture the two inmates and provide medical aid to the woman, who is six months pregnant.Till date, authorities have received over 30 letters via fax and over 50 from across the world. Home minister R R Patil too has received similar letters. One of the letters, addressed to Vinod Lokhande, inspector general (prisons), stated, “I am writing to you out of concern for theatre activists Sheetal Sathe and Sachin Mali, who were arrested on April 2 on various charges, including criminal conspiracy and being part of a banned outfit. Their lives are at risk of torture or other ill-treatment.”

Fed up with the continuous letters, jail officials have switched off the fax machine. “We don’t have so much stationery. All letters are almost same, only the senders are different. The fax letters do not show the location or country code, from where they are being sent,” said a source. After Sathe and Mali’s surrender under the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), activists Prakash Ambedkar, Prakash Reddy, Anand Patwardhan and others said the two are members of Kabir Kala Manch, a cultural outfit.

“In appearing before the police, KKM members state that this act should not be construed to be a “surrender” but as a form of “satyagraha” to clear their names and establish the fact that their goal is to fight for justice within the confines of democratic conduct,” said a statement signed by Ambedkar, Patwardhan and others.