Amid songs and poetry against caste, on land and forest rights, access to education and farmer suicides by members of the Samata Kala Manch and Kabir Kala Manch, a performer sang, “Khara bolna paap aahe, Naxal tharavla jaashil (It’s a sin to speak the truth, you will be labelled a Naxal)”.
At a performance organised as a tribute to “lokshahirs” or political bards Vilas Ghogre and Shantanu Kamble at Matunga’s Yashwant Natya Mandir on Saturday, the two cultural groups also addressed the recent arrests of lawyers and civil rights activists by the Pune police amid allegations of links with Maoist groups.
Speaking at the event, Justice (retd) B G Kolse Patil said the recent move to paint the organisers of the Elgaar Parishad in Pune was a political one. “Whoever speaks against the system, criticising it… is targeted. Elgaar Parishad is being defamed because it was a show of strength of Dalits, Muslims and others against the current regime,” said Justice Kolse Patil.
Kamble, who passed away last month, at age 39, too, was booked on charges of being a Naxal in 2005. After 100 days in custody, he was granted bail and, subsequently, acquitted of all charges. But, the incarceration, physical and mental torture had a lasting impact, his wife Dipali Wagh said. “He strived through his writing to end caste discrimination and for an equitable society for all and was greatly disturbed till his death by the harassment he was subjected to,” Wagh said.
Kamble was targeted like the activists recently for reaching out to the masses about their rights and an equitable society, said activist Vira Sathidar. “While being tortured by the police, Shantanu would be asked by them how dare he wear jeans. He was told by a senior policeman that a Dalit man should not dare to be like them. All this to silence him,” said Sathidar, also the editor of Vidrohi magazine and recently actor in Marathi film Court.
He said similar action was taken against members of the Kabir Kala Manch — two of whom, Sagar Gorkhe and Ramesh Gaichor — also took the stage on Saturday. The two are currently out on bail after being nearly five years in jail on allegations that the Kabir Kala Manch was associated with Maoist groups.