DC | Bala Chauhan & Bellie Thomas |  November 22, 2014, 06.11 am IST
A police officer shoots video while the Kabhir Kala Manch from Pune performs at St. Aloysius College on Friday (Photo: DC/File)

A police officer shoots video while the Kabhir Kala Manch from Pune performs at St. Aloysius College on Friday (Photo: DC/File)

A group of artistes from Pune, in Bengaluru to perform at Nirankusha: Fearless Speak festival, had to scrap their show at St Joseph’s College of Arts and Science, after police forced the college authorities to cancel the Friday evening event.

The festival, meant to celebrate the freedom of speech and expression, was finally held at St Aloysius College, where principal Fr Ambrose Pinto stood by the group. The Kabir Kala Manch (KKM) from Pune, describes itself as a progressive organization fighting for the oppressed.

The police, KKM members said, attempted to scuttle the event, saying the Akhila Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishat , a students’ organization linked to the BJP, had threatened to protest.

They were busy recording songs in a studio in the city, one of which was written by KKM member Deepak Dhengale while in jail, after being “labelled” pro-Naxal by Maharashtra police. As the chorus sang Dhengale’s words -Tod do, tod do, jaati ki zanjeeren (Break the shackles of caste…) -they were informed that police had got St Joseph’s to cancel the event.

“I can only tell you this, some of us were tortured (not physically) by people who claimed to be from the intelligence.We were questioned until late in the night, asking how we were connected to KKM, though we repeatedly said we were only lending space for their event,” a St Joseph’s faculty member said.

Having learnt that St Joseph’s had decided to cancel the event, preparations for which were complete and with even invitations handed out, KKM approached St Aloysius College, where Fr Ambrose Pinto readily agreed to host them on Friday.

“On Friday morning, about 25 policemen visited St Aloysius and warned the college against hosting us. But the principal stood by us and said unless there was an official order, he would host us,” a KKM member said, adding they eventually procured permission from the police commissioner.

Police commissioner MN Reddi told TOI: “I only know of a couple of officers who went to St Joseph’s, which is part of our job. I have no reports of faculty being kept there until night and questioned.If they can provide some evidence, I’ll certainly look into the matter.”

KKM, supported by the Alternative Law Forum and organizations like Maraa, Pedestrian Pictures, Vimochana, Komu Souharada Vedike among others, eventually conducted the event, even as police documented the entire show at St Aloysius.

Issues relating to caste, globalization, farmers’ suicides and promises by politicians were discussed using mediums like dance-drama and songs. And finally, the freedom of speech and expression prevailed in Bengaluru.