New Delhi, 2 May, 2013
More than a hundred cultural activists, painters, litterateurs, filmmakers, theatre artists, singers, journalists, students and intellectuals took out a Protest March from Sriram Centre-Mandi House to Maharashtra Sadan demanding the immediate release of ‘Kabir Kala Manch’ activists and withdrawal of all false cases and fabricated charges levied against them. The Protest March was called by the theatre group ‘Sangwari’, web journal ‘Sangathan’ and a film group ‘The Group’, all affiliated to ‘Jan Sanskriti Manch’ as well as ‘All India Students’ Association’ (AISA). The protest march reached Maharashtra Sadan where a mass meeting was held. A 5 member delegation comprising the renowned painter Ashok Bhowmick, film-maker Sanjay Kak, poet Neelabh, literary critic Ashutosh Kumar and Dr. Uma Gupta from Delhi University met the Resident Commissioner of Maharashtra government and handed over a memorandum addressed to the Chief Minister of Maharashtra demanding unconditional and immediate release of Sheetal Sathe , Sachin Mali (artists belonging to Kabir kala Manch) and Sudhir Dhawale, editor of a Marathi journal (all arrested on Bogus charges).
Demands also included withdrawal of false cases against them and strict action against police officers involved in framing the concerned cultural activists. The memorandum also stated that the practice of silencing intellectuals and cultural activists by the state government, dubbing them as ‘terrorists’ or ‘Maoists’ and framing them under draconian laws on trumped up charges must stop at once and the livelihood and social security of their family members must be ensured. The cultural activists and student protestors declared that a petition to Chief Justice of India shall be submitted with signatures from all over the country asking the apex court to intervene in the matter and to prevail upon the governments who are engaged in blatant violation of the fundamental ‘right to expression’. After handing over the Memorandum to the Resident Commissioner film-maker Sanjay Kak addressed the protestors and said that the government had better not be under the illusion that curbing the right to expression would silence the artists. Just a day ago only the people of Pune and Maharashtra knew about Kabir kala Manch, but today their voices are reaching across the entire country. He asserted that the repressive measures of the state will not scare cultural activists and that they will continue to fight for the freedom of expression. This fight will involve more and more people.
As is well known, repression has continued unabated on cultural activists of Kabir Kala Manch (KKM) over the past two years in the state of Maharashtra. The members of KKM who were arrested in May, 2011 on charges of being ‘Maoists’ under UAPA got bail recently. However, almost immediately following that two other artists of KKM- Sheetal Sathe and Sachin Mali were arrested on April 2, 2013 on the same charges. Both have denied all charges against them and said that they are followers of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, Mahatma Jyotiba Phule and Bhagat Singh.
The protest March started with a recital of the song ‘Bhagat Singh tum zinda ho’ by artists from ‘Paltan’. This song, sung in the voice of Sheetal Sathe, has gained a lot of popularity. During the march which culminated in a mass protest meeting at Maharashtra Sadan, artists from ‘Asmita’, ‘Sangwari’ and IPTA expressed their protest through revolutionary songs. Protestors marched with placards and raised slogans all through the kilometer long stretch in scorching summer heat, till the police stopped them at Maharashtra Sadan, where they started a protest mass meeting. Addressing the meeting, noted Hindi-Urdu writer, Noor Zaheer said that governments alienated from the masses are unleashing repression on artists who are standing in solidarity with the peoples’ struggles. Poet Neelabh said that repression is unleashed on all sections of the toiling people and that we must protest against it at each and every instance. Rekha Awashthi from ‘Janwadi Lekhak Sangh’ expressed support for the protest. Ashok Bhowmick from ‘Jan Sanskriti Manch’ said that the current situation in the country calls for a bigger role of writers, artists and intellectuals in favour of the fighting masses and that would entail continuous confrontation with the oppressive system. National Secretary of ‘All India Progressive Women’s Association’ Kavita Krishnan said that Maharashtra government never stops the voices of those ministers who ridicule the miseries of the people every now and then but finds it necessary to silence the voice of Sheetal Sathe. People love the voices of KKM artists, but anti-people state machinery considers such voices dangerous. Therefore, it is all the more important to raise such voices even more loudly. Sandeep Singh, National Secretary of AISA and theatre artist Lokesh Jain also addressed the meeting. Prof. Chaman Lal & Parnal Chirmuley from JNU, Radhika Menon from D.U., theatre personality Arvind Gaud, literary critics Gopal Pradhan & Vaibhav Singh, film maker Ajay Bhardwaj, cultural activists Raviprakash from ‘Sangathan’, Asit Das from ‘Sanhati’, Kapil Sharma from ‘Sangwari’, Sanjay Joshi from ‘The Group’, journalits Anjani & Shivdas were among those who joined the protest march and mass meeting. Awadhesh, Sanjay Joshi and Sudhir Suman convened the entire proceedings.
Released by Sudhir Suman, National Joint Secretary, ‘Jan Sanskriti Manch’. Contact- 09868990959
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