It’s been over a year since Kabir Kala Manch (KKM) activist Sachin Mali surrendered before the State assembly in Mumbai. Mali has been lodged in the Arthur Road Jail since then, but despite any number of shackles, his voice has not been subdued. An anthology of poetry penned by Mali will be released by Lokvangmay Griha Publications on May 12 at St Xavier’s College, Mumbai.
Titled Sadhya Patta Bhumigat (Current Address Underground), the poems document Mali’s experiences while he was in hiding for two years, after being accused of having affiliations with Naxal groups.
The book launch will be attended by playwright, actor and director Girish Karnad, as well as actor Ratna Pathak Shah, Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh leader Prakash Ambedkar and writers such as Pradnya Pawar, Satish Kalsekar J V Pawar, Ratnakar Matkari and Sambhaji Bhagat.
Mali, along with his wife Sheetal Sathe and KKM members Sagar Gorkhe and Ramesh Gaichor were in hiding for two years, before they surrendered.
Sathe was released on bail while the other three are still incarcerated — Mali in Arthur Road, and Gorkhe and Gaichor in Taloda Jail. Speaking to Mirror, Sathe said, “There are 23 poems in the book and the title says it all — we didn’t really have any recognised identity while we were in hiding, and even now, our lives are governed by extreme caution.
The poems are about freedom of expression, caste annihilation, everything we stand for, and are forced to give up.” “My favourite poem is Mee kunacha parlok nasht kela naahi. It says that though we have not destroyed anything, yet we are accused of having done so,” Sathe added. Most of the poems were written while Mali was underground, though some were penned in prison.
Sukumar Damale of Lokvangmay Gruha said, “We don’t agree with the allegations linking Kabir Kala Manch with Naxalites. ‘Lokvangmay’ means ‘people’s literature’, free of aspersions, which is why we are publishing this book.”
Prakash Vishwas Rao, another member of Lokvangmaya Gruha, said, “Our publication is for those voices which are suppressed and we believe in bringing such voices forward.” Other KKM members voiced their satisfaction that Mali’s book is seeing an official release. Rupali Jadhav, KKM member, said, “The book has poems on comrade Sharad Patil, Dr Narendra Dabholkar, Gautam Buddha and so on.
We are glad it is being released in public. Since we started performing in the last few months, we have been constantly harassed. All these allegations are published in the media, but no one asks for our side of the story.”
“There is nothing wrong in singing songs about corruption, casteism, atrocities against the poor, but democracy now feels like a farce, whoever raises these issues is branded a Naxalite and put behind bars,” Jadhav added.
Simantini Dhuru, a member of the KKM defence committee, which is organising the press release for the book, said, “These poems are one of the best things to have happened to Marathi literature and have received excellent reviews from writers such as Satish Kalsekar.”
Documentary filmmaker, Anand Patwardhan said, “This event celebrates freedom of expression and the poems have both literary and political merit.”
Kabir Kala Manch, a Pune-based cultural troupe was formed in 2002. After the arrest of two of its members, Siddharth Bhosale and Dhawala Dhengle by the ATS in 2011 for alleged Naxal links, Sachin Mali and the rest if the members went into hiding.