Tag Archives: Pune

Kabir Kala Manch – Young Turks fired by zeal for their ideology

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Kochi, November 5, 2013, The Hindu

Nidhi Surendranath

‘Ideology’ is a word Deepak Dhengle uses frequently when he talks about his life. His ideology changed his life completely in the last few years and landed him in jail in 2011.

Dhengle, who says he subscribes to Marxism and the teachings of B.R. Ambedkar, was arrested by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad on charge of associating with Naxalites.

Dhengle, 38, is part of the Pune-based cultural activism group Kabir Kala Manch (KKM), which travels to slums and rural areas of Maharashtra and delivers performances against poverty, caste oppression, and other social issues. Several activists of KKM have been arrested on charge of indoctrinating people into the Naxalite ideology.

Now out on bail, Dhengle was in the city with five other members of KKM to deliver a performance here at the inauguration of a film club. “I have never taken up arms. But the State arrested me under a law that punishes terrorists,” says Dhengle. “We are all democratic people. But we want a true democracy. The Constitution written by Ambedkar should be followed in its true spirit. That is not happening today,” he says.

KKM’s fight, say its members, is against the inequality and minority oppression rampant in India. “There is no electricity and no water in my village outside Pune even today. During the four months of rains, we get electricity only for two hours in the day. There are no good schools. There is a hospital, but no guarantee of getting medicines. Nothing has changed there,” says Dhengle, who works as a mechanic in Pune.

“Pune has one of the most expensive bus systems in the country. How can the poor live in such conditions?” says Rupali Jadhav, a member of KKM.

KKM organises music, poetry and theatre performances in slums and villages on themes such as inequality, illiteracy, price rise, capitalism, and cultural and social oppression. The songs, some of them drawn from the tradition of Dalit protest in Maharashtra and others written by KKM members, deliver their message in simple and direct style. “Our performances come from our folk culture. They tell our audience, primarily tribals and Dalits, about the oppression they face and why such things happen,” says Rupali.

KKM’s musical performances are powerful and draw upon images from the life around them to deliver the message. Their performance was featured in the 2012 documentary Jai Bhim Comrade by award-winning filmmaker Anand Patwardhan. “Our performance is powerful because it is based on our own bitter experiences,” says KKM musician Ramdas Unhale. Ramdas is a carpenter, who like many members of KKM, lives in a Pune slum.

KKM was formed in Pune following the Godhra riots. Dhengle was attracted to the movement in 2004 when he saw and advertisement by the organisation in a newspaper. “I could sing well and I knew I wanted to do something different. So I joined KKM. The ideology came later,” he says.

Others like Rupali and Ramdas joined KKM after seeing their street play and song performances in their slums. Also in Kochi were KKM musicians Rajat R. Avsak, Dattatrey, and Dada Waghmare. All of them do odd jobs in Pune and were drawn into the music and message of the organisation. Despite the arrests, the Kala Manch’s performances are drawing many young people. “The college students who are joining us now already know Marxism. They don’t have to study the ideology first like we did,” says Dhengle. This interest in KKM’s thinking was what prompted the ATS to arrest them, he says. Three of KKM’s members are still in prison, while the others have been let out on bail.

The arrest has hit their lives severely. “We all lost whatever small jobs we were doing. Though we are on bail, we have to report to the investigating agency regularly. That is also affecting our jobs,” says Rupali.

The organisation, however, has managed to keep going. KKM recently performed in Bangalore, with Dattatrey even performing a song in Kannada. Having arrived in Kerala for the first time, the group is disappointed by what they saw here.

“We had high hopes when we were coming here. We heard that Kerala had a strong Communist movement and that women were empowered here. But the myth is now broken,” says Dhengle. “For land so rich in natural resources, the situation is not much better here. Why have the Communists here not done anything? What will I go back and tell all those people who hold Kerala in high regard?” he says.

For now, the members of Kabir Kala Manch will go back with these questions and find ways to fortify their own movement.

 

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Armed with revolutionary poems, Kabir Kala Manch activists want to fight against state

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GAYATRI JAYARAMAN  MUMBAI,
Kabir Kala Manch poster
Kabir Kala Manch poster

Aasaman te rachat 

Nahin jaade mein rajaai 
 
Signal pe teri duniya 
Khadi dhoop mein hai bhai
 
Indica mein firte kutte 
Mercedes mein ghoomte kutte 
 
Tujhe biscuit ki bheek 
Aisa kyon hai? Aisa kyon hai? Aisa kyon hai?
Above the bustle of dense Pune city traffic, at a roadside tapri, the sweet voice of primary poet and composer of cultural activism group Kabir Kala Manch, Deepak Dhengle, 38, resurrects these, the first words of revolution he ever penned a decade ago. Three others of the group, Jyoti Jagtap, 27, Siddharth Bhonsle, 27 and Rupali Jadhav, 28 share one cup of tea between them, and listen to the lyrics that are their only weapon against a State that labels them naxals.
All of them have spent the last two years underground, but courted arrest in May this year, and are currently out on bail. Their colleague, poet Sheetal Sathe, nine months pregnant and incarcerated at Byculla jail in Mumbai under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, is released on bail a day after this meeting. Rupali’s husband, Sagar Godkhe, and Jyoti’s husband, Sachin Kale, remain behind bars.
Dhengle, a small time motor mechanic who found employment with the government in Pune after he came to the city when his father was displaced after TELCO shut down in Bhimashankar, in 1996, joined the Manch after the Gujarat riots. He found them singing about the removal of caste, class and community differences. He began to compose and sing too.
Arrested under sections 465, 387, 419, 465, 467, 468, 471 and 120 B of the IPC, section 10, 13, 17, 18, 18A, 18 B, 20, 21, 38, 39, 40 (2) of the UAPA, Dhengle’s defence claims that he was tortured in custody to the extent that he faces potential paralysis and was forced to confess sympathy for Naxal. He has never picked up a gun or received arms training, he says. He has been suspended from service and survives on the goodwill of friends.
This is not the intellectual activism of the well-ensconced elite. The crackdown of the State is so intense, to continue is not an easy or obvious choice to make. But he, and those with him, will continue to sing of these issues at colleges, in slums, he says, come what may.
“There is a difference between the ahimsa of Gandhi and the ahimsa of Buddha. Buddha spoke of attadippa bhava (annihilation). It is a whole philosophy of opposition that ends oppression. The youth in its enthusiasm wants instant change. The voice, with which we sing, is the vidrohi voice (the counter culture, the voice of opposition). It is drawn from a long history of Dalit literature and activism that prompted social betterment. If this has us branded naxals, then so be it. If Babasaheb Ambedkar was alive today, maybe he would have accepted the Communist party.” Dhengle says.

 

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.

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

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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

 

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.”

 

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.