Tag Archives: KabirKalaManch

Kabir Kala Manch- Singing for justice, singing against exploitation

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Bhanuj Kappal speaks to Deepak Dengle of Kabir Kala Manch, the radical singing group that has been targeted by the Maharashtrian police for suspected ‘revolutionary’ activities.

BHANUJ KAPPAL  20th Jul 2013, Sunday Guardian

Deepak Dengle in a stil from Jai Bhim Comrade.

hey were thrashing the poor fellow in the other room, I could hear him crying.”

It’s a gloomy June afternoon, and Deepak Dengle is telling me about a chain-snatcher who had been brought in to the police station he has to visit every week, as part of his bail formalities. Dengle is a member of the Dalit cultural troupe Kabir Kala Manch (KKM), which has been in the news lately due to police accusations of Naxalite links. In May 2011, Dengle and his fellow KKM activist Siddharth Bhosle were arrested by the ATS, along with five other people, and charged under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). The rest of the group went underground, only surfacing after Dengle got bail in March 2013. Here, we discuss KKM’s politics, his arrest, and his resolve to carry on with the struggle:

Q: When was the Kabir Kala Manch founded?

A: KKM was formed in 2002 by Professor Yogendra Mane (from Wadia College, Pune), Amarnath Chandaliya, Haroon Sheikh and a few other sensitive people. They thought that something must be done after the Gujarat riots to promote Hindu-Muslim unity. But the Manch in its current form came about in 2005-6, by which time a lot of the original members had left or had been kicked out.

Q: What issues does KKM focus on?

A: Our main focus is casteism and caste atrocities. We have performed a lot of plays and songs about caste issues. But we also have songs about tribal rights, workers’ rights, corruption, and the effects of liberalisation that we can see all around us. Whenever we heard of a protest or rally that we agreed with, we would to go there and sing. With Medha Patkar, we made a lot of noise about the Lavasa development project. Once, we gherao-ed the Congress party office in Dadar with Patkar. At Kabir Kala Manch, we believe that there can be no end to casteism without addressing the class issue, and vice versa. The struggle for both will go together, which is why we believe in Ambedkar and Marx and mix both ideologies.

We only found out later that Angela (Sontakke, one of seven charged in the original case) was the wife of the Maoist State Committee Secretary for Maharashtra. So when she was arrested, we were added to the case. Also, we’d raised a lot of noise about Lavasa and about casteism, and Khairlanji, being not afraid of naming anyone be it the Tatas or Sharad Pawar. So they were looking for an opportunit 

Q: What can you tell me about your arrest?

A: I was picked up from my job as a mechanic for the Pune Corporation. I was on duty at my depot when someone came up to me pretending to be from my village. When I walked out with him to have a cup of tea, I didn’t notice a jeep parked outside with its doors open. I had taken 10 steps when they put me in the jeep and sped off. This was on the 12th [of May] and they didn’t register my arrest till the 13th.

Once I was in custody, they started beating me; they hit me with their belts. They were asking me where Sachin and Sheetal were. I didn’t know, so they continued to hit me. They stripped me, tied my hands and legs with a rope and hung me from the ceiling. Then they took this oil called Suryaprakash oil, and put it all over my body, including my groin. It causes burning all over and makes it hard to breathe. I was in so much pain that I asked them to shoot me and get it over with. They only untied me once I lost consciousness.

A dance performance choreographed by Mishti Bawar, set to KKM songs

have been taken out of police custody immediately. But I had no knowledge of how the judicial system works. And they threatened me, said they’d pick up my wife. I got scared so I didn’t say anything. But if I knew that it would make even a slight difference, I wouldn’t have held back.

Q: Why do you think the police decided to go after KKM?

A: We need to understand one thing about how the police functions, and I found this out when I met people who were inside for bomb blasts cases. When they find one person who has some involvement with a case, they pick up a lot of their associates and charge them as well. That’s what happened to us as well. We only found out later that Angela (Sontakke, one of seven charged in the original case) was the wife of the Maoist State Committee Secretary for Maharashtra. So when she was arrested, we were added to the case. Also, we’d raised a lot of noise about Lavasa and about casteism, and Khairlanji, being not afraid of naming anyone be it the Tatas or Sharad Pawar. So they were looking for an opportunity to shut us down.

Q: Now that you and the other KKM members have a case to fight, do you still intend to continue performing once the others are out on bail?

A: We have already started performing again. I came out on 8 March, and on 30 March, I went to a rally paying tribute to Bhagat Singh and sang a song by Sheetal called Bhagat Singh, Tu Abhi Zinda Hai. Rupali, Jyoti and I also performed at another rally in Chakan (Pune District). We will not give up so easily. Our only purpose is to go and sing at peoples’ movements, and we’ll continue to do that.

On 27 June, less than a week after I met Dengle, he and Rupali Jadhav were arrested at a protest by Warkaris in Pune, along with some Warkari leaders. They were charged with obstructing traffic. They’re now out on bail, unfazed and determined to continue their struggle.

#India: Stop Misuse of Counterterrorism Laws #KKM

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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

 

Anti Nuke song by Kabir Kala Manch – English Translation

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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

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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)

 

Enemies of the state: The continuing andolan of the Kabir Kala Manch

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The arrest of Sheetal Sathe and Sachin Mali of the KKM has brought this ongoing controversy back to the real issue at stake — the freedom of cultural and political expression, who these freedoms extend to and whom they ignore, writes Bhanuj Kappal 

BHANUJ KAPPAL   May 2013

ay 6, a sweltering Monday afternoon. A small crowd of reporters and activists have gathered near the Dr B. R. Ambedkar statue at Oval Maidan, Mumbai. Their attention is focused on four singers with blue bandanas performing protest songs and handing out copies of their latest album – a collection of protest music that touches on a range of issues such as caste and class oppression, gender equality, land redistribution and environmental exploitation. Sagar Gorkhe, Ramesh Gaichor, Jyoti Jagtap, and Rupali Jadhav are members of Pune-based cultural troupe Kabir Kala Manch (KKM), who are wanted by the Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) for alleged links to a banned Naxalite organisation. They are here to give themselves up. A few weeks earlier, their fellow cultural activists Sachin Mali and Sheetal Sathe had courted arrest, and were taken into police and judicial custody respectively.

What follows is a farce. The ATS, which has been hounding their friends and family for almost two years, fails to show up. The bemused activists march to Mantralaya to surrender to Home Minister R.R. Patil, only to be told that they will have to wait. There is still no sign of the ATS. After a long wait, they finally meet the minister, whom they greet with a rendition of ‘Laal Salaam’. Mr. Patil listens to their concerns, and assures them that there will be no torture. Eventually, he has to call up the ATS and inform them that the activists they have been hunting are sitting in his office. Four hours after coming out of hiding, Sagar Gorkhe and Ramesh Gaichor are taken into custody, while their wives Jyoti Jagtap and Rupali Jadhav are allowed to go home.

Earlier, the four singers joke about what they’ll do if nobody turns up to arrest them. But behind the laughter is real concern, and a steely determination to stand up for their rights. They have been hiding from the police ever since KKM members Deepak Dengle and Siddharth Bhonsle were arrested in 2011 along with six other activists for alleged Naxal links. They have had little to no contact with their families. “The police went to Rupali’s mother and told her that Rupali had been killed in an encounter,” says Jagtap. “She has health problems, and she fainted on hearing this.”

Kabir Kala Manch is not unique in being targeted by the police and being branded as Naxalites, but their story is an example of how the Indian state is increasingly clamping down on anti-establishment speech and expression.

The irony is that I’ve made a film featuring these militant songs, and that got a National Award. So it depends on which class and caste you belong to. These people have court cases against them, and I have a National award.  — Anand Patwardhan

The story begins in 2002, when a group of mostly Dalit students and young professionals from Pune came together in the wake of the Gujarat riots. Some of them, such as Sachin Mali, were activists who had participated in the short-lived but influential Vidrohi cultural movement. For others, such as Sheetal Sathe and Sagar Gorkhe, who used to be religious singers, this was an initiation into radical politics. Influenced by the 19th century reformer Jyotirao Phule, and contemporary Dalit-left singers Vilas Ghoghre and Sambhaji Bhagat, they started performing their politically-charged music and theatre in the slums and streets of Pune.

They were very disturbed by the Gujarat riots,” says Sambhaji Bhagat, who regularly interacted with the group. “Then Khairlanji happened, and that was a terrible case. Nobody can bear atrocities like that. They started singing about the genocides and massacres. Being Dalits who came from the jhopadpattis [ghettos] of Pune, they knew the reality of life for thousands of people under oppression. Unlike the middle class, who come to know the reality [of oppression] through ideology, they came to ideology through this reality.”

Kabir Kala Manch’s music is part of a long tradition of Dalit protest music and poetry, dating all the way back to the Satya Shodhak Samaj‘s political tamashas in the 19th century [a traditional performance mixing music, satire and theatre]. Their music and politics is also influenced by Left-leaning musical groups like the Red Flag Cultural Squad, comprising of Annabhau Sathe, D.N. Gavankar and Amar Sheikh.

Anand Pathwardhan and the four accused contemplate their next move after being shooed away from Mantralaya on May 6 |Photos: Kashish Parpiani

“They’re basically a combination of Ambedkarite thought and Marxism,” says documentary film-maker Anand Patwardhan, whose last film Jai Bhim Comrade discussed the present plight of the KKM extensively. “It’s a mixture of two philosophies that seemingly don’t mix, but in their work they get integrated. They’re raising the issue of caste in the Left movement and the issue of class in the Ambedkarite movement.”

By 2007, KKM was travelling and performing in slums and villages all across Maharashtra. Their popularity grew because of their passionate and poignant performances, and the issues that they raised. Lead singers Sheetal Sathe and Sagar Gorkhe are both talented singers and songwriters, and their performances would often leave the audience in tears.

“It’s not just the politics, it’s the art itself,” adds Patwardhan. “Sheetal is a wonderful singer, she has a voice that can move anybody. Sachin’s poetry is also very moving. In the political sphere, you rarely come across such good musicians, people with such command over musical skills as well.”

But with growing popularity came the scrutiny of the State. And when their songs grew more militant, the police swung into action. As mentioned earlier, KKM members Deepak Dengle and Siddharth Bhonsle were arrested from Pune in 2011, along with five other activists, and charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. The others went into hiding.

Legal advisor Susan Abraham says: “The charges against them are that they were organising students and workers, and participating in struggles with the aim of building up support for CPI-Maoist.”

She adds that this isn’t the first time that the government has targeted singers and cultural activists, citing Shantanu Kamble and Sudhir Dhawale as examples.

Both the Kabir Kala Manch and its defenders admit that their music became more militant in response to increasing atrocities against the Dalits and other marginalised sections of society, though they deny that they are Naxalites. They argue that in a mature democracy singing songs of rebellion should not be a crime. What is the right to freedom of speech and expression if it does not include freedom to dissent?

Activist Vivek Sundara says: “The state has gone beyond targeting active Naxalites. Now anyone, even a cultural activist, who is against the State and speak out about rights is being targeted. By all accounts, these people have committed no acts of violence. They’re radicals, but they’re only singing and speaking.”

RR Patil with Anand Pathwardhan, Prakash Ambedkar and the four accused

“Our democracy would be a dry democracy, or a fascist state, if we arrest people who sing songs on the basis of mere suspicion,” adds Patwardhan. “The irony is that I’ve made a film featuring these militant songs, and that got a National Award. So it depends on which class and caste you belong to. These people have court cases against them, and I have a National award.”

Their arguments have found support in a recent High Court ruling by Justice Abhay Thipse, which granted bail to Deepak Dengle and Siddharth Bhonsle along with two others who were charged in the same case. Justice Thipse ruled that “suspects could be sympathisers of Maoist philosophy but none can be said to be active members of banned CPI (Maoist)”.

Emboldened by this ruling, KKM members are now coming out in full public glare to submit themselves to legal questioning and the due process of the law. They hope to get bail quickly, and believe that a fair trial will lead to their acquittal. They have no illusions about the police and the judiciary, but are determined to fight it out no matter how long it takes.

“We want the freedom to go to andolans and morchas hand in hand with the people,” says Gorkhe. “Our songs are our strength. All our ideas, we put in our songs and present them to people.”

As the four activists walk to the police station where they will wait for their meeting with the Home Minister, a journalist asks Rupali Jadhav if they have anything they want to say to the police. She replies: “We’ll sing them our songs. After all, that is what we do.”

 

Dharna and protest meet in support of KKM at Lucknow

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 Protest at Gorakhpur in support of KKM

Lucknow, U.P. 4 May, 2013

 

Jan sanskriti Manch called a day long dharna and protest meeting at GPO park, Lucknow to protest repression on Kabir Kala Manch demanding immediate release of Sheetal Sathe & Sachin Mali and withdrawal of false cases against KKM activists. Many litterateurs, journalists and representatives of different progressive organizations joined the protest. Poet Naresh saxena, theatre artist Rakesh of IPTA, Tahira hasan, national Vice president of AIPWA, Ramayan Ram, U.P. state president of AISA, poets Bhagwan Swaroop Katiyar of Jan Sanskriti Manch, Ajay Singh and Pragya Pandey, literary critic Virendra Yadav of PWA,   Ashish Tripathi of PUCL,  O.P. Sinha of Workers’ Council, K.K. Vats of Alag Duniya addressed the protest meet. Kaushal Kishore, convenor of Jan sanskriti Manch , Lucknow conducted the meeting. Subhash Rai, Chief Editor, ‘Samkalin Sarokar’, writers Usha rai, R.K. Sinha, Shyam Ankuram, B.N. Gaud, veteran communist trade unionist Ganga Prasad from  Lenin Pustak Kendra, Rajeev Yadav of Rihai Manch, AISA activists Seema Chandra & Sudhanshu Vajpai participated in Dharna and protest meet among others.

 

Released by Kaushal Kishore, convenor, JSM, Lucknow , Contact- 08400208031

 

 

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