Kabir Kala Manch was started by Pune-based activist Amarnath Chandaliya after the Gujarat riots of 2002 as a cultural group spreading the message of unity and equality through songs and poetry. The group,two of whose members surrendered on Tuesday after over two years on the run following charges under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA),has never been known to be involved in any violence.
Pune residents know it for the shayiri (poetry) jalsas and Vidrohi Kavita (protest poetry) sessions it would hold at slums,colleges and functions,drawing many students and social activists to it. What brought the Manch under a cloud were allegations of its members having links with Angela Sontakke,secretary of the Golden Corridor Committee of the banned CPI (Maoist),which particularly targeted urban areas in west Maharashtra for new recruits. She and two members of the Manch were arrested by the ATS in April-May 2011 under the UAPA,along with four others. Six Manch members went absconding at the time,including the two who surrendered on Tuesday.
While there are genuine fears that Naxals are trying to spread their base in the urban belt,prompting intelligence agencies to keep a close watch on groups like Kabir Kala Manch known for sympathy towards Maoist philosophy,as a Bombay High Court ruling recently said,that cannot be a ground to believe them to be active CPI (Maoist) members.
The High Court ruled this while granting bail to the six held under the UAPA in Pune in 2011,though not Angela. The High Court order stated that suspects could be sympathisers of Maoist philosophy but none can be said to be active members of banned CPI (Maoist). It is this order that encouraged the Manchs absconding activists Sheetal Sathe and Sachin Mali to surrender.
While the ATS is still trying to prove that Manch members were involved with the CPI (Maoist),it should take some cue from the High Court order.
The basic apprehension of the state (ATS) is that in future they (suspects) were likely to indulge (in) various violent activities…, said the court. Certainly such apprehension cannot be said to be without basis… However… such possibility by itself would not be sufficient to conclude that the applicants are presently active members of the terrorist organisation.
Chandan is a principal correspondent based in Pune
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