It’s an oppressively warm Saturday evening but the sea breeze helps. Next to the Carter Road amphitheatre, a group of six people are huddled together. One of them is reading out a poem by Bhagat Singh. The March edition of the monthly Morche Par Kavi programme was dedicated to the the freedom fighter. The gathering is small but it does not affect the morale of the members present. The people’s collective has been organising dissent poetry reading programmes for over two years now.
“When we dedicated our monthly session to farmers’ issues last year, we saw farmers from rural Maharashtra join us at Carter Road. There have been times when the response is so overwhelming that the entire stretch near the amphitheatre is packed,” explains Mayank Saxena.
A collective that brings together people from all spheres to provide them a platform for dissent, Morche Par Kavi was started in Mumbai in December 2015. Saxena says that while it came in reaction to the Dadri lynching, the idea was already brewing since 2014, ahead of the Lok Sabha polls that brought BJP into power. “Many of us were subconsciously aware that spaces and platforms for dissent need to be cultivated. Morche Par Kavi emerged from that,” Saxena says. The group started in Delhi but could not sustain there. Besides, Saxena feels, a city like Mumbai, where people do not protest against issues that don’t directly affect them, the need for a platform like this was greater.
A former journalist, Saxena, alongside musician Rossi D’Souza, protest music group Yalgaar, voice-over artist Ila Joshi among others, are part of the core group members. Also part of the collective are several others from the film and art fraternity, such as actor and lyricist Swanand Kirkire, actor Mohammed Zeeshan Ayub, and theatre director Rasika Agashe. The collective, which meets on the last Saturday of every month, also features members from mainstream, such as bankers.
The idea, says Joshi, is to reach out to as many people to begin a dialogue on issues that may not be directly affecting Mumbaikars. “Such as the Kathua and Unnao cases now, which may become our theme for our meeting next week,” she says. Mithun Prajapati has been with the collective since its inception as well. A vegetable vendor by profession, Prajapati moonlights as a poet. “It’s easy to presume people like me don’t have opinions or concerns about what is happening in the country. Morche Par Kavi provides a democratic platform where I too, can have a voice,” he says.
Typically, the members of the group gather at Carter Road amphitheatre with poetry based on the decided theme, mostly a topic of current affairs. “We have spoken about Aadhaar, farmer suicides, communalism, beef ban and several raging issues in the past,” says Joshi.
Yalgaal and other musicians in the group provide music for the songs, but they never use microphones. “It would beat the point if we have to seek permission from BMC every time. It’s a people’s movement and we want it to stay that way.”