The Unsung Heroes.

Niharika Pandit talks about the unsung heroes of today- Kabir Kala Manch.

He was the chairman of the drafting committee for the Indian constitution. A representative of the minority- the dalits. Following the rampant caste oppression in the then India, he was determined to do away with the concept of Chaturvarna as suggested by Manu. He organised several protests, mobilised dalits to oppose caste oppression, and participated in demonstrations where copies of Manu Smriti- the root of caste segregation were burned. That was Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar.

Post 65 years of independence, dalits still largely remain the oppressed classes. Official figures suggest, on an average two dalits are killed while three are raped everyday in India. Following the brutal killing of dalits in Ramabai Colony, Mumbai in 1992 and the assault of Priyanka Bhotwange and her mother in Khairlanji, dalit youths have begun to protest against the oppression of the ‘backward classes’ more intensely. Yet, the state remains indifferent towards this oppressed community. Many of these people are charged for instigating the dalit communtiy against the upper classes. A dalit cultural activist like Sudhir Dhawle was charged for “sedition” and has been imprisoned. The case still remains pending.

In this backdrop, the story of another such Dalit cultural group, which aimed to erase disparity in the society, remains unheard of. For them, music was not limited to entertainment but a potent weapon which could initiate a struggle for equality.

Kabir Kala Manch (KKM) came into being, following the 1992 communal carnage in Gujarat. Initiated by young dalits in Pune region, the group began to organise cultural activism against caste inequality in the society. The troupe increased awareness among oppressed classes by serenading Kabir’s dohas,  its own compositions and took part in several public interest causes- slum-dwellers rights, workers rights and sustainable development. Yet their immense affinity remained towards annihilating caste and integrating the oppressed into caste-less societal structure. The group also conducted events supporting inter-caste marriages and at other instances, aided protests led by Medha Patkar and Bhaiya Vaidya.

“Our aim is clear. We do not wish to get into commercialisation nor will we go with any political party or non-government organisation. We wish to make people aware and motivate them to fight injustice. We aim at individuals and not at groups or communities. It’s only when individuals will rise to revolt that a change will come,” said Gorkhe, a member of KKM in an interview to Daily News and Analysis (DNA). link to the article- http://www.dnaindia.com/mumbai/report_kabir-kala-manch-creates-awareness-through-dramatics_1364274

No they didn’t organise an armed protest but mobilised oppressed masses through songs about Dalit atrocities, poverty and exploitation. Yet in the year 2011, the state government had labelled the group as ‘Naxalites’.

Sheetal Sathe of Kabir Kala Manch (KKM)

On May 12, 2011, two members of KKM, Deepak Dengle and Siddharth Bhonsle, were arrested by the state under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), and branded Naxalites. While others including the group’s lead singer Sheetal Sathe now operate underground.

“With their arrest, others have been forced to go underground, almost silencing the art form permanently. Space for people to protest against atrocities in the country is disappearing,” says Anand Patwardhan, a KKM supporter and a National award winning documentary film-maker.

Defence Committee
On May 11, 2012, Patwardhan, supported by activist Kamayani Bali-Mahabal, actor Ratna Pathak Shah and playwright-director Ramu Ramanathan, among others, formed the Kabir Kala Manch Defence Committee.

Patwardhan’s documentary film ‘Jai Bhim Comrade’ talks about Sheetal Sathe and her songs about feminism, equality, casteism and capitalism.

The committee is mainly operational online and seeks support from young people to stand for the Kabir Kala Manch (KKM)
-Join the support team of Kabir Kala Manch  http://kabirkalamanch.wordpress.com

Beyond the Lines

In our society with disparity of class and caste, it is important for the educated lot to realize and work towards diminishing the lines of inequality. The first step begins here. Supporting the KKM.

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