May 15, 2012
According to official government figures, on an average 2 dalits are killed and 3 raped every day across India. All the more shocking is the fact that even in Maharashtra which gave birth to major social reformists and progressive thinkers like Jotiba Phule and Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, the incidence of atrocities remains unacceptably high.
In this landscape it cannot be surprising that dalit and adivasi youth have begun to voice their protest more openly than before. After the police killings at Ramabai colony and later, the Khairlanji massacre many protests took place. Instead of bringing the guilty to book, the State responded by branding the protesters as Naxalites (Maoists). Dalit cultural activists like Sudhir Dhawle were jailed for “sedition” and remain behind bars for years, pending trial.
It is in this context that the story of Kabir Kala Manch must be understood. KKM is a Pune based cultural troupe mainly consisting of Dalit youth from the region. First coming together against the communal carnage in Gujarat, they took part in innumerable public interest causes like slum-dwellers rights, workers rights and sustainable development, but their special affinity has been fighting for the annihilation of caste to which end they even held events promoting inter-caste marriage. As a cultural troupe they performed for and with movements led by Medha Patkar and Bhai Vaidya as well as with groups from the working class movement.
Around last year the state began to brand them as Naxalites. Today while Deepak Dengle and Siddharth Bhonsle of KKM are in prison, many other members including lead singer-poets Sheetal Sathe, Sagar Gorkhe and Sachin Mali have gone underground after threats from the police. All are charged with being Naxalites and the ATS is using an uncritical media to plant regular allegations against the KKM. Even these allegations do not accuse the KKM of any violence, but are dependent mainly on guilt by association.
It is not so long ago that Dr. Binayak Sen was similarly charged and jailed for close to 3 years before the Supreme Court intervened to grant him bail. Binayak Sen had by then become an international cause célèbre. It was hoped that his release on bail would put a brake on the targeting of innocent civilians for the mere “crime” of taking up the cause of the poor. The targeting of KKM shows that this is not the case.
The Kabir Kala Manch Defense Committee urges the government of Maharashtra to withdraw all false charges against members of the KKM, free the cultural activists who are currently in prison and allow the KKM to perform in public again.
Medha Patkar, Bhai Vaidya, Sudhakar Suradkar, Anandrao Ambedkar, Anand Teltumbde , J.V.Pawar, Sumedh Jadhav, Comrade Prakash Reddy, P.A. Sebastian, Ratna Pathak Shah, Ramu Ramanathan, Suneeta Rao, Simantini Dhuru, Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Asit Das, Satyen Bordoloi, Rizvi Amir, Vivek Sundara, S. Anand, Teesta Setalvad, Anand Patwardhan