Tag Archives: Binayak

Release of KKM Music CD Release- ‘ “Hi Amchi Gani – Amcha Gunha Kay?”

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PRESS CONFERENCERelease of KABIR KALA MANCH Music CD
4th October (Thursday). 3pm to 5pm. Mumbai Marathi Patrakar Sangh

Girish Karnad will release the CD of the songs.

Theatre persons and artistes will be present.

KABIR KALA MANCH is a group of students and professionals. It has been creating awareness about social issues through their Shahiri, protest songs and street plays in Pune. For KABIR KALA MANCH, art is much more than entertainment. It’s an anthem to denounce injustice, mobilise the oppressed, prepare them for struggle, create consciousness and ensure change.

It is for this crime that the State has declared them Naxalite since 2011. Today while Deepak Dengle and Siddharth Bhonsle are in prison, many other members including singer-poets Sheetal Sathe, Sagar Gorkhe and Sachin Mali have gone underground after threats from the police.

The CD album titled “Hi Amchi Gani – Amcha Gunha Kay?” of spirited music, decked in folk-form is a compilation of 11 songs from their earlier two albums.

The idea behind this initiative is three-fold:

– Make the KABIR KALA MANCH songs available to the people.

– Bring to light the cases against two members Deepak Dengle and Siddharth Bhonsle who were arrested on 12 May 2011 under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).

– Provide legal counsel and support to the members of Kabir Kala Manch.

Please do attend.

Regards

On behalf of the Kabir Kala Manch Defence Committee

Anand Patwardhan, Bhai Vaidya, J V Pawar, Kamayani Mahabal, P A Sebastian, Prakash Reddy, Ramu Ramanathan, Ratna Pathak Shah, Sambhaji Bhagat, Simantini Dhuru, Sudhakar Suradkar, Sumedh Jadhav, Suneeta Rao, Teesta Setalvad, Vivek Sundara and many more.

For further information:

Contact: Kamayani Bali Mahabal: 9820749204 and Comrade Prakash Reddy: 986900684

Email: kkmdefence@gmail.com

Website: https://kabirkalamanch.wordpress.com/

The KABIR KALA MANCH Defence Committee

According to official government figures, on an average, two Dalits are killed and three raped every day across India. All the more shocking is the fact that even in Maharashtra which gave birth to major social reformists and progressive thinkers like Jyotiba Phule and Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, the incidence of atrocities remains unacceptably high.

In this landscape it cannot be surprising that Dalit and Adivasi youth have begun to voice their protest more openly than before. After the police killings at Ramabai colony and later, the Khairlanji massacre many protests took place. Instead of bringing the guilty to book the State responded by branding the protesters as Naxalites. Later Dalit cultural activists like Sudhir Dhawle were jailed for “sedition”.

It is in this context that the story of KABIR KALA MANCH must be understood.

KABIR KALA MANCH is a Pune based cultural troupe mainly consisting of Dalit youth from the region. First coming together against the communal carnage in Gujarat, they have taken part in innumerable public interest causes like slum-dwellers rights, workers rights and sustainable development, but their special affinity has been fighting for the annihilation of caste to which end they led from the front by promoting and publicising inter-caste marriages within the group. As a cultural troupe and as songwriters they performed for and with movements led by Medha Patkar, Bhai Vaidya, as well as with groups from the working class movement.

In 2011, the state began to brand them as Naxalites. Today while Deepak Dengle and Siddharth Bhonsle are in prison, many other members including singer-poets Sheetal Sathe, Sagar Gorkhe and Sachin Mali have gone underground after threats from the police. All are charged with being Naxalites and the ATS is using an uncritical media to plant regular allegations against the KKM. Even these allegations do not accuse the KKM of any violence, but are dependent mainly on guilt by association.

It is not so long ago that Dr Binayak Sen was similarly charged and jailed for close to three years before the Supreme Court intervened to grant him bail. Binayak Sen had by then become an international cause célèbre. It was hoped that his release on bail would put a brake on the targeting of innocent civilians for the mere “crime” of taking up the cause of the poor.

The targeting of KKM shows that this is not the case.

The KABIR KALA MANCH Defense Committee urges the government of Maharashtra to withdraw all false charges against members of the KABIR KALA MANCH, free cultural activists who are currently in prison and allow the KKM to perform in public again.

KABIR KALA MANCH Defense Committee is a group of citizens concerned with the erosion of the cultural space and the right to protest in India. It includes:

Anand Patwardhan, Bhai Vaidya, J V Pawar, Kamayani Mahabal, P A Sebastian, Prakash Reddy, Ramu Ramanathan, Ratna Pathak Shah, Sambhaji Bhagat, Simantini Dhuru, Sudhakar Suradkar, Sumedh Jadhav, Suneeta Rao, Teesta Setalvad, Vivek Sundara and many more.

 

Notes from underground

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Notes from underground

Last month, a group of filmmakers, actors and activists formed the Kabir Kala Manch Defence Committee to support the Dalit singers who went underground last year after being branded Naxalites. Kareena N Gianani looks at similar initiatives and finds hope, anger and an awareness of the reinvention needed to keep a cause ” and the person ” alive

June 24, 2012
Mumbai
Kareena N Gianani, Sunday Mid-day

Towards the end of a recent screening of Anand Patwardhan’s 2011 documentary on caste atrocities, Jai Bhim Comrade, a 20-something girl appeared onscreen. A ripple of seat-shifting ran through the auditorium at Xavier’s College, as if on cue. Her unflinching gaze planted a nagging thought in the viewers’ minds, hinting that something was going to make them sit up, very soon. Her easy smile told them otherwise. Everyone edged closer to their seats, anyway.


Documentary filmmaker Anand Patwardhan is part of the Kabir Kala Manch Defence Committee. He had interviewed the Pune troupe’s members for his documentary on Dalit exploitation, Jai bhim Comrade. Pic Courtesy/MS Gopal (www.mumbaipaused.blogspot.com)

Sheetal Sathe half-closed her eyes and sang about Dalit atrocities, poverty and exploitation. The static in the sound system of the makeshift pandal in Pune could not tarnish her deep, heartrending voice. By the time the gooseflesh settled down, the next scene showed Sathe, an atheist, sitting with her mother in a chawl whose walls were invisible because of the dieties’ posters fighting for space. Sathe spoke of how Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar clearly said if the Constitution did not give people justice — political, social and economic — his own people would overthrow it. Her mother looked on.

Sathe, with four members of her street music troupe, Kabir Kala Manch (KKM), has been underground since May last year. On May 12, 2011, two members of KKM, Deepak Dengle and Siddharth Bhonsle, were arrested by the state under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), and branded Naxalites.

Defending the right to disagree
Last month, on May 11, Patwardhan, supported by activist Kamayani Bali-Mahabal, actor Ratna Pathak Shah and playwright-director Ramu Ramanathan, among others, formed the Kabir Kala Manch Defence Committee. Patwardhan, who is currently touring in Australia to screen Jai Bhim Comrade, says over email that the KKM members are mostly Dalits from poor families who do not carry weapons, only sing songs.

“Had someone like you or me uttered the same words and sentiments as KKM did through their songs, I doubt the State would have branded us Naxalites and begin to hound us till we were forced to go underground.”  When, adds Patwardhan, the mining corporations put pressure on the Centre and the Centre puts pressure on the State and the ATS to show results in the fight against Naxalites, what better soft target to hit than a group like the KKM?

“And there is always a gullible media to swallow the story. Occasionally, these stories unravel as one did when the Malegaon blasters turned out to be a Hindutva gang and not the poor Muslims who had been tortured for six years for the same crime,” says the documentary filmmaker. Ironically, the state awarded Jai Bhim Comrade the National Film Award. Patwardhan made his point by donating the Rs 51,000 prize money to the Committee fighting against the state.

Silencing dissent
At her Bandra residence, Shah thinks for a moment before she finds the perfect analogy for the given situation. “The KKM members were closer to the material they sang about — closer than performers like me can ever be. Their art is confrontational and direct, and, as an actor, I can see why the impact is magnified. Don’t we pay Rs 500 to watch stand-up artistes criticise politicians, policies and social issues?”


Kabir Kala Manch’s lead singer, Sheetal Sathe, is underground with four other members after two of her troupe members were branded Naxalites and arrested in May last year

Shah remembers a time when, a couple of years ago, at a stage performance of Saadat Hasan Manto and Ismat Chughtai’s controversial plays, Booh and Lihaaf respectively, a viewer stormed out after a fight with the actors. He was shocked that Shah could stage something that “obscene and corrupting in front of his 14 year-old daughter”. “The show was meant for adults in the first place. Still, we never once took away his right to disagree with us. But in the case of the KKM, that is exactly what state is doing — silencing voices that speak against them.”

The KKM Defence Committee is also trying to raise its voice against the treatment meted out to the families of the KKM members who have gone underground. Sathe’s mother, for instance, says Mahabal, was thrown out of the Ruby Hall Clinic in Pune, where she worked as an assistant. It is Binayak Sen all over again, says Mahabal.

She currently attends the KKM hearings with other members and runs a blog and a Facebook page dedicated to the KKM. She also plans to organise a peaceful protest around Independence Day this year with the help of Justice And Peace For All (JAPA), a group of musicians who spread activism through their art. Last December, JAPA members performed at Carter Road in support of Binayak Sen. “We got some rappers who rap in Marathi, too. When it comes to these cases, you must keep doing something new — innovating in terms of ideas — to generate interest. We, the middle class, can be surprisingly thick-skinned otherwise,” smiles Mahabal.

‘Unite the cause’
The first thing 39 year-old Arun Ferreira remembers after his five year-long jail stint in January, is a “thumb marathon”. “I was supposed to SMS relatives, friends and fellow activists who fought for me. But I’m so slow that I don’t think I am still done with that.” “I don’t think I’ve gotten used to life outside jail,” says Ferreira, looking around at the ice-cream parlour in Bandra.


Arun Ferreira, who was released from prison in January, plans to form a committee in Mumbai, similar to the Committee For Release Of Political Prisoners, New Delhi, which works for the rights for political prisoners. Pic/Atul Kamble

The man behind the counter looks up from his own ‘thumb marathon’ on his mobile phone and leans to look at Ferreira, as if to see what a man just outside prison looks like. Ferreira doesn’t notice. He is busy smiling and speaking of how he misses the “real conversations in jail as compared to the ‘pings’ and ‘pokes’ outside”.

Ferreira shows no outward signs of distress. Nothing in the way he walks across the street with his denim sling bag suggests that he was arrested under the same UAPA act under which the KKM was booked last year. Neither does his demeanour give away the fact that he is working on a plan to start a Mumbai-version of the Committee For Release Of Political Prisoners, New Delhi, an organisation fighting for human rights since 1989.

Ferreira is all for activists forming committees to support causes against the UAPA, but says that somewhere, we need to go beyond the individual. “We must understand that we need a larger platform and united causes — no issue is ‘just’ social, environmental, about women — it is all about expressing our right to dissent.”

Ferreira isn’t comfortable revealing names of those who will be a part of this body. “I’ll continue doing what I am doing even now — being part of other committees working toward releasing political prisoners, filing applications, extending legal help to them and their families and so on,” he says.
In jail, Ferreira spent a lot of time with those booked under the UAPA, such as Dalit activists Sudhir Dhawale and Vernon Gonsalves. “Words like ‘vidroh’, these days, are enough to land you in jail. We don’t need more cosmetic laws, we need a change in the existing set-up. I think it’s time we remembered that democracy was, in the first place, born out of struggle.”

Keeping the case alive
Eddie Rodrigues, associate professor at the department of sociology at the Mumbai University, understands where Ferreira is coming from. “Post-liberalisation, the left, right and centre seem to have come together and are working on a modern development model that keeps out three-fourth of our population. The media comes in to sensationalise things and many NGOs reap its benefits thanks to this section. Voices of dissent and those that speak up for this part of the population are seen as ‘trouble-makers’,” says Rodrigues.

The struggle, he adds, is not dead, but because there is no political will, unorganised groups have a limited impact. Sumedh Jadhav, a 50 year-old activist who formed the Sudhir Dhawale Muktata Abhyaan after Dhawale’s arrest in May 2010 says a lot changes for the committees working against the UAPA arrests as time passes. “All that the cops found before arresting him were documents about Bhagat Singh and a book with a red cover.

When we first started the committee, there was a lot of hullabaloo in the media and in the people. Even today, we have moral support, but other cases have come up and I am struggling to keep Dhawale’s work alive even among our own community.” Jadhav, who works as an LIC agent, attends court hearings and goes to Dalit-dominated bastis to spread Dhawale’s message. He says he often joins similar causes in the hope that Dhawale’s case, again, will be in the limelight. “I wouldn’t say there are no listeners, but I feel that I need to ‘reinvent’ myself and my cause. Perhaps, get on Facebook…”

KKM Defence Committee meets Maharshtra Chief Minister

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June 1, 2012-Kabir Kala Manch Defence Committee delegation met  Maharashtra Chief Minister, Prithviraj Chauhan   today. The delegation comprised of  Prakash Ambedkar, Anand  Patwardhan, Sumedh Jadhav, Ratna  Pathak Shah, Ramu Ramanathan,  Simantini Dhuru and Kamayani Bali Mahabal.

 
The chief Minister saw a clip from Jai Bhim Comrade regarding Kabir Kala Manch for about 15 minutes and then gave a patient hearing regarding the arrests of Kabir Kala Manch Members  Deepak Dengle and  Siddhartha Bhonsle The Chief mInister was informed that Kabir Kala Manch members have been targeted and are being harassed by the Police. Sheetal Sathe’s mother has lost her job from Ruby Hall hospital after  the arrests of KKM members. She is a widow and Sheetals brother has a  heart problem.
Similarly Deepak Dengle’s wife who makes both ends meet by making dabbaas is suffering from leukimia . The delegation stated that removing the democratic space from under the feet of people from the weakest sections is more likely to push their youth towards Naxalism rather than away from it.
 
The Chief Minister promised to look into the matter and work towards a resolution within the democratic framework.

A report in the Mumbai Mirror below-

A  group of activists met Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan on Friday asking him to stop the police from branding functionaries of the Pune-based Kabir Kala Manch, a cultural troupe, as Naxals, and arresting them.
The activists of the KKM Defence Committee met the CM included film-maker Anand Patwardhan, human rights  activist Kamayani Bali  Mahabal,  N ational leader of Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh Prakash Ambedkar, actress Ratna Pathak Shah and playwright Ramu Ramanathan.
The Kabir Kala Manch (KKM), came into the limelight and the radar of the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS), as well as the state Anti-Naxal Operations Unit after one of its members – Deepak Dengle- was arrested on May 12, 2011 for his alleged Naxal links.
While the state went on to add a host of charges against writer Dengle, primary among them was that the KKM was being used by the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) as a ‘front’ to indoctrinate city youth in Naxal ideology.
The police’s investigations at the time revealed that Dengle had been part of a training camp organised by the CPI (maoist) in Pune’s Khed taluka and some other members of the Kabir Kala Manch were also present there.
In a statement, the Kabir Kala Manch expressed dismay that in a state like Maharashtra, which gave birth to thinkers like Jyotiba Phule and Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, government figures show that on an average two dalits are killed and three women are raped every day, making for chilling statistics.
In the statement, the KKM said, ‘Today while Deepak Dengle and Siddharth Bhonsle of KKM are in prison, many other members including lead singer-poets Sheetal Sathe, Sagar Gorkhe and Sachin Mali have gone underground after threats from the police. All are charged with being Naxalites and the ATS is using an uncritical media to plant regular allegations against the KKM. Even these allegations do not accuse the KKM of any violence, but are dependent mainly on guilt by association.’
Drawing parallels with Dr Binayak Sen, who was jailed for close to three years before the Supreme Court intervened, the KKM said that it hoped that Sen’s incarceration and subsequent bail would have made the government more careful before branding people as Naxals.
The KKM Defence Committee has urged the state government to withdraw all false charges against members of the KKM, free the cultural activists who are currently in prison, and allow them to perform in public again.

Ratna Pathak Shah- Speaks for Kabir Kala Manch

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Jai Bhim Comrade a documentary film by Anand Patwardhan on the continuing atrocities inflicted on Dalits and on their resistance to this through poetry and music, recently won a National Film Award. On the 19th of April the government of Maharashtra further honoured the National awardees, and Anand Patwardhan received Rs.51,000 for Jai Bhim Comrade.

A different fate is currently being faced by members of the Kabir Kala Manch (KKM) who feature prominently in the film Jai Bhim Comrade. While Deepak Dengle is in prison, many other members including lead singer-poets Sheetal Sathe, Sagar Gorkhe, Ramesh Gaichor and Sachin Mali and a few others have gone underground after threats from the police. All are all charged with being Naxalites and the ATS is using an uncritical media, like the Indian Express, to plant regular allegations against KKM. Even these allegations do not accuse the KKM of any violence, but is dependent on guilt by association.

It is not so long ago that Dr. Binayak Sen was similarly charged and jailed for close to 3 years before the Supreme Court intervened to grant him bail. Binayak Sen had by then become an international cause célèbre. It was hoped that his release on bail would put a brake on the targeting of innocent civilians for the mere “crime” of taking up the cause of the poor.

The attack on KKM shows that this is not the case and consequently many Indian citizens have decided to initiate a Kabir Kala Manch Defense Committee. The Committee Includes- Ratna Pathak Shah and many more. Any one can join and help for the Cause