Tag Archives: Sheetal Sathe

In the Dark Times, Sheetal Sathe Sings Of the Dark Times

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After voluntarily courting arrest, Dalit activist and performer Sheetal Sathe is finally out on bail. But why was she arrested under the UAPA law in the first place? If she wasn’t a Maoist, what danger did this pregnant woman pose to the government of Maharashtra? A profile of the woman they call ‘Maharashtra’s Gaddar’.

Grist MediaBy Bhanuj Kappal | Grist Media – Mon 8 Jul, 2013

Sheetal Sathe

On June 27, 2013, Sheetal Sathe finally got bail.

I first met Sandhya Sathe, Sheetal’s mother, outside Mumbai’s Byculla Jail in late June. She had spent the last few hours trying to see her daughter, who is eight months pregnant. She looked tired and worried. Policemen stared at us as they walked by, looking pointedly at the recorder in my hand. “Even now, I have no idea what’s going on,” she told me then. “I know nothing about politics. I’d never been to a court till all this happened. I hope she gets bail and the government lets us live the rest of our lives as normal citizens.”

Her daughter, 28-year-old singer-poet Sheetal Sathe, is the president of the cultural protest group Kabir Kala Manch (KKM). At the time, Sathe had already spent two months in prison on charges of being a Naxalite, after she and her husband courted arrest in April. Despite her mother’s fervent prayers, Sathe’s bail hearing was postponed by a week because the Maharashtra government had not bothered to file a reply. She spent 10 more days inside, worrying about the lack of medical facilities and the effect of prison food on her unborn child.

Today, three of her fellow KKM activists are still imprisoned on similar charges. Their crime? Using their art to expose injustice and register their dissent against the State.

I first came across Sathe and KKM while watching Jai Bhim Comrade, Anand Patwardhan’s powerful documentary on Dalit protest music. Even in a film full of inspiring music and stories, KKM’s performances stood out. Partly, it was the way they use dry wit and satire to drive home their scathing sociopolitical commentary. It helps that they are fiercely talented. Mostly, they fascinated me because their songs communicate the anguish and anger of India’s underprivileged millions in a way that no speech or newspaper report ever can. When Sathe sings about the poverty and exploitation of the Dalit community, your chest constricts in rage. When she sings of a mother going hungry in order to feed her children, her voice wrenches you out of the layers of indifference and apathy. And when she calls for a ‘truly democratic revolution’, she makes you want to be the first one to the barricades.

Is it this articulation of daily injustice and oppression, distilled from raw, lived experience that makes this motley group of young poets and singers a threat to the biggest democracy in the world?

*****

 

The members of the Kabir Kala Manch come from the same bastis and slums as their audience. Sathe grew up in Pune’s Kashewadi slum, where the rest of her family still lives. Her mother worked as support staff in the intensive care unit (ICU) at Ruby Hall hospital for Rs 11 a day. This, and the few rupees she earned begging for alms in the name of the goddess Mahalaxmi Devi, all went towards bringing up her three children. Determined to guarantee them a better life, she made sure that Sathe went to a good school rather than the local municipal school. Sathe’s love for music grew amongst her very devout family, who gathered regularly in her house to sing devotional songs. And at school she got a chance to hone her talent.

“Sheetal loved to sing and was always the first to be picked to sing at cultural events in her school. That’s where she got her confidence,” says KKM activist Rupali Jadhav, who is also from Kashewadi.

By the time she was in junior college, Sathe was on the lookout for other opportunities to sing in public. It was her cousin Sagar Gorkhe, also a very talented singer, who told her about a cultural troupe that would be happy to give her a platform for her music.

KKM was founded in 2002 as a response to the Godhra riots and the ensuing rise in communal tensions. “Ramesh (Gaichor) was one of the founding members, along with Yogendra Mane, Amarnath Chandaliya, Haroon Sheikh, and a few other people,” says Deepak Dengle, who joined the group in 2004. “They thought that after the Gujarat riots, something must be done to promote Hindu-Muslim unity.”

The group did a number of shows around the city under the ‘Awaaz Do’ banner. But by the time Sathe and Gorkhe joined the group, a lot of the original team had left or been kicked out, as part of the churning all young groups undergo. They were replaced by new blood and a new focus on Dalit and workers’ rights.

Sathe had no interest in activism when she joined KKM, but that soon changed. Dengle says: “She only wanted to sing, but she got interested in politics because being a Dalit from the slums, she was sensitive to the real suffering of the poor. Like us, she felt her songs should be of service to the people.”

Her political education was helped by the regular study circles conducted by the group. Members would be assigned different subjects to study, and then they would discuss their research with the rest of the group. Heavyweights from the Left and Dalit movements, such as members from the Vidrohi Sahitya Sammelan (an alternative Marathi literature conference that spawned the Vidrohi movement), were also invited to speak at these sessions.
Sathe was a quick learner. “She had a great curiosity. No one had to push her,” says Dengle. “If she came across a new idea, she’d study it immediately.” It was at these discussions that KKM developed and formalized its political ideology — a potent mix of Ambedkarite and Marxist thought. It was also at these study circles that Sathe met the man she would eventually marry.

Sachin Mali was already a fairly experienced activist by the time he joined KKM. He had worked with the Vidrohi Sahitya Sammelan and had been an active member of the Students Federation of India (SFI) while studying at Tasgaon, Sangli. He shifted to Pune for work. Mali took up work as a bus conductor and joined the local chapter of SFI, but was unhappy with the way that organization functioned. A big fan of revolutionary poet-balladeer Sambhaji Bhagat, he started looking for a group that sang Bhagat’s songs. It didn’t take him long to join the KKM, where he impressed everyone with his poetry, his intelligence and, in Sathe’s case, his good looks as well. Says Dengle, “Sachin was a poet, had worked in activism, had a personality that impressed Sheetal. They were attracted to each other. We were very happy that they’d found love within our group.”

Unfortunately, neither family shared Dengle’s enthusiasm since the two were from different castes. Sathe already had regular arguments with her mother over the latter’s devotion to the religion that Sathe viewed as the root of her community’s problems. So it wasn’t entirely unexpected when her mother kicked her out of the house when she found out about the romance with Mali. At Mali’s end, too, the strongest opposition came from his mother who was firmly against the marriage.

The other KKM members put Sathe up in a women’s hostel and encouraged her to keep studying. (She was studying for an MA in sociology at Siddhivinayak College but was not a gold medalist from Fergusson College as many newspapers have reported. It was Sachin Mali who had been a gold-medal winning student in Sangli.) Sathe and Mali’s friends and well-wishers intervened to try and convince the families to accept the match. In the end, Sathe’s mother and Mali’s father and sister attended their wedding, an inexpensive and intimate ceremony on the lines of a Satyashodhak ceremony. (The 19th century reformer Jyotirao Phule’s Satyashodhak Samaj had pioneered inter-caste wedding ceremonies, which do not require the presence or sanction of Brahmin priests.)

“We didn’t want it to be the bland, boring weddings that happen in Left circles,” says Rupali Jadhav. “We wanted to make it celebratory, to show that we believed in what we told people and were happy to apply our message to our own lives.” The wedding was attended by heavyweights from the progressive movement, many of whom performed songs, dances or gave speeches to celebrate their union.

Until this point, the KKM performances had been sporadic, with the group focusing on honing their music and street theatre into the unique artistic voice it is today. They were helped in this task bySambhaji Bhagat, who regularly travelled to Pune to train the group. Bhagat, who formed a close bond with the group, was particularly impressed by Sathe. “Sheetal isn’t just a good singer, she is also a really good poet,” he says. “She can write really well and her songs are complex, unlike most political songs.”

Take for example a song in which KKM lambasts the Dalit political leadership for selling out their community. Sathe quotes Dr BR Ambedkar’s warning that if the constitution failed to provide social and economic justice to the Dalits, it would be brought down. She taunts her audience for not challenging the political leaders who have betrayed them and calls for a new Ambedkar for a new era:

“Better to sacrifice this body
than live like a corpse
Open your eyes to the
dream of Dalit martyrs
And create a new Bhim
For our new era.”

That isn’t the only way that KKM’s music differs from that of their peers. While they fit firmly in the tradition of Dalit-Left folk music embodied by poet-singers like Vilas Ghogre, Gaddar and Annabhau Sathe, they don’t limit themselves to those forms. They don’t care about whether a musical or cultural form is borrowed from another community or culture. Their philosophy, as Dengle puts it, is that ‘art is art and if it works, we’ll use it’. As a result, they were one of the first protest music groups to use western instrumentation regularly. They would constantly be on the lookout for new musical styles that they could experiment with. This sheer diversity of influences is part of what makes their music so appealing to those outside the Dalit-Left movements as well. This was not a group happy to merely preach to the choir.

Then Khairlanji happened, an event that influenced not only KKM but a whole generation of Dalit youth. On 29 September, 2006, a Dalit family was brutally slaughtered in Khairlanji, a village in the Bhandara district of Maharashtra. There were allegations the women had been paraded naked around the village and raped, and that the police were trying to protect the perpetrators. Yet the news was greeted with silence, not only from the government and the media but also by the mainstream Dalit parties.

A month later, appalled by the government’s continued indifference, Dalit youth took matters into their own hands. Protests and riots broke out all over Maharashtra. Their outrage only grew when Home Minister RR Patil dismissed the protests as the work of Maoists.

KKM jumped into the deep end of the struggle. “During the Khairlanji protests, we were on the streets every day,” says Dengle. “When the protesters threw stones at the police, we were there. Every time we heard about a rally or a protest, we’d go and perform in order to motivate the protesters and raise their spirits.” They were rewarded for their efforts by being put on a list of 26 organizations (including Medha Patkar of the National Alliance of People’s Movements and Baba Adhav) that the government claimed had links to the Maoists. The State had been watching, and they had been spotted.

Khairlanji had a profound effect on the group. Their songs became more militant, their demands for justice and revolution more strident. Dengle says, “After Khairlanji there was all this rage. When we saw what had happened, and how the State acted after the atrocity… anger automatically comes out in your songs, your politics, your life.”

They intensified their struggle. They performed at bus stops, at bastis, on the roadside. They were present at every protest in or around Pune, performing their plays and singing songs about the exploitation of the Dalits and the poor. Their targets included the proposed nuclear plant at Jaitapur, the controversial Lavasa development, NCP supremo Sharad Pawar and the police. When the Medha Patkar-led Narmada Bachao Andolan gherao-ed the Congress headquarters in Dadar in 2008, KKM was there. People soon started calling Sathe ‘Maharashtra’s Gaddar’.

Anyone with a working knowledge of the Indian State’s treatment of dissent will know what comes next. It was time for the other shoe to drop.

*****

In April 2011, the police made their move. The Maharashtra Anti-Terror Squad (ATS) arrestedschool teacher and activist Angela Sontakke, who they claim is a senior member of the Communist Party of India (Maoist). Six other arrests followed. KKM activists Deepak Dengle and Siddharth Bhonsle were arrested. On 20 July 2011, the police filed charges against all seven – and eight others who could not be located, including Sathe and Mali – under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).

Alarmed by news of the arrests and worried about their own safety, the rest of the group went underground. Unable to track them down, the police settled for harassing their families instead. “Police would come every day,” said Sandhya Sathe, who had to quit her job because of the case. “Even now that Sheetal is inside, the ATS people come on a regular basis. Now they ask after the two kids [KKM activists] who are still underground. They offer money. They say we’ll give you 10 lakh, we’ll give you a good house. I don’t know anything at all, so what do I tell them?”

Dengle believes KKM was implicated in the case because of their acquaintance with Sontakke, whose CPI (M) connections were unknown to the group. When the police caught Sontakke, they probably saw a chance to kill two birds with one stone.

Sadly, this is standard operating procedure for the police in India when dealing with anyone linked to groups or ideologies that they perceive as anti-nationalist. A comprehensive investigation by the news portal Gulail.com recently proved that the Uttar Pradesh government had knowingly prosecuted several innocent Muslims in terror cases and hid evidence of their innocence from the courts. It is just one shocking example of how our police and governments abuse their power – often targeting political dissidents instead of doing the painful investigations required to find those who actually commit crimes.

Closer home in Maharashtra, there are a number of recent cases where Dalits have been arrested and charged with sedition for possessing books by Bhagat Singh, and just as startlingly, the works of Dr BR Ambedkar, the architect of India’s constitution. In Tamil Nadu, over the course of one year, 8,000 people protesting peacefully against the Koodankulam nuclear power plant have been booked for sedition and waging war against the State. Arun Ferreira, Sudhir Dhawale and Binayak Sen are only three more examples from a long litany of names of activists booked under similar charges.

One and a half years passed since the post-Khairlanji crackdown. Dengle and Bhosle were still in prison, the rest were still in hiding. Meanwhile, public support for KKM was growing, largely thanks to the film Jai Bhim Comrade and the efforts of the KKM Defense Committee (including documentary filmmaker Anand Patwardhan and several activists). But there was little action on the ground till February 2013, when the bail pleas of the seven people in custody reached the Bombay High Court. In an unexpected but welcome decision, Justice Abhay Thipsay of the high court granted bail to Deepak Dengle, Siddharth Bhosle and two others arrested in the same case.

Justice Thipsay ruled that “suspects could be sympathizers of Maoist philosophy but none can be said to be active members of banned CPI (Maoist)”. He went on to express his mild shock at the evidence based on which the KKM activists had been imprisoned, saying,  “It is surprising that highlighting the wrongs prevalent in the society and insisting that there is a need to change the situation was considered as evidence and used to convince the court of them being members of the Communist Party of India (Maoist).”

Encouraged by this decision, Sheetal Sathe and Sachin Mali appeared in front of the Vidhan Sabha building in Mumbai and courted arrest on April 2, 2013. Before the ATS took them into custody, the young couple read out a statement. They said this was not a surrender, this was a satyagraha and that they were sure they’d be acquitted of all charges. A month later, four more KKM members surfaced, though this time they had to wait a few hours before the ATS turned up to take them into custody. Sagar Gorkhe and Ramesh Gaichor were arrested, while the others were allowed to go home.

*****

June 27. Sheetal Sathe has been granted bail.

The other three, including Sathe’s husband Mali, have filed bail applications, and are hopeful that they will be out soon as well. But this is only the first step. They still have a case to fight, one which could stretch for years in a country where 30 million cases are pending in courts across the nation. And then there’s the stigma of being branded a Naxalite, the police scrutiny that will never go away, the ever-looming threat of fresh arrests and fresh charges.

On the evening of 27 July, as KKM supporters and well-wishers were celebrating Sathe’s bail, Deepak Dengle and Rupali Jadhav were arrested by the Pune police. They had been singing at a demonstration of Varkaris protesting builders taking over the Bhandara and Bhamchandra hills where the 16th century saint Tukaram is said to have lived.

It was just another reminder from the police that when it comes to dissenters against the State, there are no happy endings.

Bhanuj Kappal is a freelance journalist who writes about music, art and cultural politics. Follow him at https://twitter.com/StonerJesus.

If pregnant Sheetal Sathe has to remain in detention, she must have adequate health care #KKM

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Photo: Amnesty International India asks authorities in the state of Maharashtra to ensure that if Sheetal Sathe, an arrested theatre activist, is to continue to be detained pending trial, she receives access to adequate pre-natal and post-natal care.

Sheetal Sathe is a member of Kabir Kala Manch, a group which uses protest music and theatre to campaign on human rights issues, including Dalit rights and caste-based violence and discrimination. She and her husband Sachin Mali were two of 15 people charged on 17 April 2011 of being members of, and supporting and recruiting for, the Communist Party of India (Maoist), a banned armed group, among other charges.

Sheetal Sathe is eight months pregnant, and Amnesty International India is concerned about her health needs, in particular her need for adequate nutrition and pre-natal and post-natal care. A rights activist who has met Sathe after her arrest, told Amnesty International India that Sathe does not receive adequately nutritious food or appropriate health care.Read More: http://t.co/AI2OclBX0Z

Amnesty International India asks authorities in the state of Maharashtra to ensure that if Sheetal Sathe, an arrested theatre activist, is to continue to be detained pending trial, she receives access to adequate pre-natal and post-natal care.

Sheetal Sathe is a member of Kabir Kala Manch, a group which uses protest music and theatre to campaign on human rights issues, including Dalit rights and caste-based violence and discrimination. She and her husband Sachin Mali were two of 15 people charged on 17 April 2011 of being members of, and supporting and recruiting for, the Communist Party of India (Maoist), a banned armed group, among other charges.

Sathe could not be traced by the police until 2 April 2013, when she and Mali appeared before the legislative assembly in Maharashtra in what they said was a protest against the charges made against them. Both were arrested, and Sathe is at present in judicial custody in a jail in Byculla, Mumbai. Her applications for bail have been rejected by trial courts in Mumbai.

Sheetal Sathe is eight months pregnant, and Amnesty International India is concerned about her health needs, in particular her need for adequate nutrition and pre-natal and post-natal care. A rights activist who has met Sathe after her arrest, told Amnesty International India that Sathe does not receive adequately nutritious food or appropriate health care.

Amnesty International reminds authorities that both Indian and international law make a presumption in favour of pre-trial release for all persons accused of penal offences. As specified in article 9(3) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which India is a state party, it must not be the general rule to hold people in custody pending trial. The right to liberty of the person requires that deprivation of liberty should always be the exception, and imposed only if it is justified, necessary, reasonable and proportionate in the circumstances of the case. All possible non-custodial measures, such as bail or undertaking to appear, must be explored by the judicial authority before making a decision to remand in custody, and such detention must be regularly reviewed by a judicial authority.

The Supreme Court of India has said in several cases, including recently in Sanjay Chandra versus CBI in 2011, that bail should be the rule and detention in jail the exception, and that refusal of bail can be a restriction on the right to personal liberty guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

With regard to pregnant women in particular, the UN General Assembly, in adopting the UN Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners (“Bangkok Rules”), has emphasized that non-custodial measures should be preferred when deciding on pre-trial measures for pregnant women.

States have an obligation under international law to respect and ensure the right to health of prisoners. Specifically with regard to pregnant women, international standards require that if pregnant women are detained, the authorities must ensure that they receive regular health check-ups, adequate nutrition and proper pre-natal and post-natal care, including advice on their health and diet under a programme drawn up and monitored by a qualified health practitioner. Pregnant women must not be detained unless such facilities are provided.

Whenever possible, arrangements should be made for children to be born in a hospital outside the place of detention. Thereafter, special provision must be made for detained women with infants, taking full account of the best interests of the child.

These measures were also issued as directions by the Supreme Court of India in the case of RD Upadhyay versus State of Andhra Pradesh, and are included in the Model Prison Manual for the Superintendence and Management of Prisons in India.

Amnesty International India urges authorities in Maharashtra to ensure that Sheetal Sathe is provided with appropriate pre-natal and post-natal care, including adequate nutrition, as required by national and international law and standards. If authorities cannot ensure that she is provided with adequate care, then alternatives to custody, such as release on bail or personal bond, should be used.

Background Information

In April 2011, the Anti-Terror Squad of the Maharashtra Police arrested Angela Sontakke, who they claim is a senior member of the Communist Party of India (Maoist), and filed charges against 15 Kabir Kala Manch members for allegedly having links with her. Subsequently they arrested six other persons. On 20 July 2011, the police filed a chargesheet against all seven arrested persons, and eight others who could not be located, including Sheetal Sathe and Sachin Mali, under India’s principal anti-terror legislation, the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).

In October 2012, the Bombay High Court granted bail to two of the seven arrested activists. The same court granted bail to four other arrested activists in January 2013, observing, “the membership of a terrorist gang or organization as contemplated by (the UAPA) has to be treated as an active membership which results in participation of the acts of the terrorist gang or organization which are performed for carrying out the aims and objects of such gang or organization by use of violence or other unlawful means.” The court also observed that “speaking about corruption, social inequality, exploitation of the poor, etc. and desiring that a better society should come in existence is not banned in our country…even the expression of views to the effect that a change in the social order can be brought about only by a revolution would not amount to an offence.”

The UAPA, under which Sheetal Sathe and Sachin Mali have been charged, uses sweeping and overbroad definitions of ‘acts of terrorism’ and ‘membership’ of ‘unlawful’ organizations, and does not comply with India’s international legal obligations

Amendments to the UAPA in 2008 extended the minimum period of detention of suspects from 15 to 30 days and the maximum period of such detention from 90 to 180 days, avoided adequate pre-trial safeguards against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of detainees and reversed certain evidential burdens of grave crimes and required, in certain circumstances, the accused persons to prove their innocence.

Human rights groups in India have highlighted several instances where the UAPA has been abused, with the use of fabricated evidence and false charges to detain activists defending the rights of Adivasi and Dalit communities and peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and association.

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

 

 

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 .

 

Meena Kandasamy accepts award in the name of Sheetal Sathe and others #womenrights

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Meena Kandasamy at the India Today Woman Summit 2013, awards were given out to those women who had broken the glass ceiling and had reached the top of the pyramid with their hard work.:


Thank you India Today. I’ve never got a prize before and I would like it to sort of remain that way. So, instead of collecting this India Today Woman’s Storyteller Award in my name, I want to collect it in the name of women who are saying all the bitter truths. And at this juncture, because these are few words I get to speak to very powerful women and men, I want to take this in the name of Sheetal Sathe, of Kabir Kala Manch, who was writing poetry and singing songs about all the problems and who is now being alleged of being a terrorist or a naxalite. And in the name of Rinu Srinivasan and Shaheen Dada who put up a facebook post and had to go to jail for that. And in the name of all the journalists like Shahina who was covering the Madani case and was legally persecuted for that. Story telling, even if it looks like a very leisurely pastime has a lot of repercussions and not everybody gets away with speaking out their mind telling the truth. This award is not for any individual. I think whenever there is a moment of crisis, we are acting as a collective. I can take this award only in the name of all Indian women who are speaking out, and facing persecution.

 

You can watch the video  here http://indiatoday.intoday.in/video/india-today-woman-awards-2013-winners/1/266664.html