Two activists of the Kabir Kala Manch (KKM) Sheetal Sathe and Sachin Mali staged a “satyagraha” outside the Vidhan Bhavan (Maharashtra State Legislature) on Tuesday in protest against being accused as Maoists and absconders by the police.
Less than two years ago, they were forced to go underground after the police began alleging that they were Maoists. Fearing arrest and torture, as well as possible planting of evidence, Sachin and Sheetal stayed out of public sight until now.
The couple surfaced outside Vidhan Bhawan on Tuesday and courted arrest, calling it a form of satyagraha to clear their names.
Sheetal, who is six-month pregnant, has been sent to judicial custody till April 17 and her husband Sachin Mali has been handed over to ATS till April 10.
Both Sachin and Sheetal were lauded by prominent social activists in Pune for their performances in various colleges, slums, agitations and social functions.
The KKM memebers have urged the state government to instruct the police and ATS to not to torture the duo.
Here is the full statement by KKM:
We the undersigned friends of the Kabir Kala Manch (KKM) Defence Committee announce that two KKM members, Sheetal Sathe and Sachin Mali both of whom are charged and described under the UAPA as being Maoist Naxalites and declared as absconders are hereby, of their own volition, appearing before peoples’ representatives and the police.
We wish this voluntary appearance of KKM before the police to be a matter of public record and expect the police to restrain from torturing them or implicating them in any false case. We expect nothing less and nothing more than thedue process of law.
In appearing before the police, KKM members state that this act should not be construed to be a “surrender” but as a form of “satyagraha” to clear their name and establish the fact that their goal is to fight for justice within the confines of democratic conduct.
The KKM is a cultural organization that has over many years spread its anti-caste, pro-democracy message through music, poetry and theatre. But when atrocities on Dalits and weaker sections of society began to increase, as witnessed in incidents like the rape and murder of the Bhotmange family in Khairlanji, the songs and words of the KKM admittedly became more militant. It is this militancy that brought them under the police scanner.
Less than two years ago KKM members were finally forced to go underground after police began to describe them as Naxalites. Two of their members were charged and arrested under the UAPA.
Fearing police arrest and torture and the possible planting of evidence, Sachin and Sheetal had stayed out of public sight till now. This period of enforced absence from the public stage has been a difficult one for a group as talented and popular as KKM.
Last year KKM began to entertain the hope of working openly again when a documentary film in which they featured, “Jai Bhim Comrade”, began to be screened widely and won a National award as well as Maharashtra State recognition.
More recently the Bombay High Court granted bail to two arrested members of KKM, Deepak Dengle and Siddharth, ruling that unless the police makes out a case that an actual crime has been committed by the accused, they cannot interpret the UAPA to arrest people merely on the basis of any alleged ideology.
Emboldened by these events to hope that due process of law can still bring justice even in these unjust times, and encouraged by signs that there is a civil society that will monitor their progress, Sachin Mali and Sheetal Sathe have decided to test the depth of our democratic system.
We must not fail the KKM, or ourselves.
Prakash Ambedkar, Prakash Reddy, Kumar Damle, Bhalchandra Kango, Kamayani Bali Mahabal Vivek Sundara, Anand Patwardhan