Written by Dipti Nagpaul | Mumbai | May 13, 2014 3:54 am
Mali’s wife Sheetal Sathe at the event on Monday.Mali’s wife Sheetal Sathe at the event on Monday.

Members of Kabir Kala Manch (KKM) Defence Committee on Monday launched a book of poetry by jailed KKM activist Sachin Mali. The book, titled Sadhya Patta Bhumigat (Current Address Underground), chronicles Mali’s experiences in the two years he was in hiding after being accused of having ‘Maoist links’.

The event, held in St Xavier’s College, Dhobi Talao, also had in attendance KKM member and Mali’s wife Sheetal Sathe, along with their nine-month-old son Abhang, and Mali’s mother Malan Maruti Mali. St Xavier’s College principal Father Frazer Mascarenhas, explaining his reason for offering the college as the book launch venue, said that the 146-year-old institution has always stood for free flow of ideas and dialogue. “Justice has been important to us, which is why it is important for us to take a stand sometimes. The issue KKM is battling also requires a dialogue and we wish t provide St. Xavier’s as the platform for that,” he said.

Documentary filmmaker Anand Patwardhan, a member of the Defence Committee, began with introducing the cultural organisation and the legal issues that members of KKM currently face, pointing out that two more activists from the group, Sagar Gorkhe and Ramesh Gaichor, are still in jail. “The book release is part of the fight to tell people who these people are. But the book is also independently of immense literary value,” said Patwardhan. Unlike KKM’s music CD — launched last year — that remains largely unavailable, copies of the book, published by Lokvangmay Gruha, will be sold at Bhupesh Gupta Bhavan in Prabhadevi.

Now out on bail, Sathe then performed to poems from Mali’s book and other songs. While she sang and played the duff, Dalit activist and shaahir Sambhaji Bhagat joined her on harmonium. The evocative poetry addressed freedom of speech and the right to question the system.

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It also spoke of the unjust caste system in the country and the persecution faced by Dalits.

The book was released by veteran thespian and KKM supporter Girish Karnad, who flew down from Bangalore especially for the event. He was joined by Ratna Pathak Shah, Mascarenhas, Prakash Reddy of Communist Party of India and also a Defence Committee member, and KKM lawyer Mihir Desai.

The guests took turns to speak about the book and KKM’s work. Shah said questioning the system and protesting injustice was every citizen’s right, adding that Mali and Sathe have been denied this right. Reddy pointed out that “Maharashtra has had a long tradition of shaahirs expressing dissent and Amar Sheikh and Anna Bhau sathe have been examples”. Activist Teesta Setalvad expressed concern over the recent caving in on part of judiciary under pressure from the state. “The system is turning right-wing, which poses a threat to the free speech of cultural organisations such as KKM,” she said.

After the event, several defence committee members, when asked if they feel the political approach towards cultural terrorism might change after a new government is instated, expressed concern over the possibility of Narendra Modi coming to power. “The current government has already done harm but the right-wing is likely to further clamp down on any voices of dissent,” said Desai.

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Read more here — http://indianexpress.com/article/cities/mumbai/jailed-kkm-activist-sachin-malis-book-of-poetry-launched/99/