[Marxism] Delhi: Public Meeting on Repression of Cultural Activists

Politicus E. epoliticus at gmail.com
Wed May 1 07:28:28 MDT 2013

Sanhati Invites you to a Public meeting and discussion on State
Repression on Cultural Activists at the Gandhi Peace Foundation, Deen
Dayal Upadhyaya Marg, ITO, New Delhi 5th May 2013, 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm

Repression of militant people's movements and struggles of workers and
peasants have intensified across India. The unprecedented military assault
in central and eastern India under Operation Green Hunt has already made
us witness innumerable atrocities against adivasi villagers and Maoist
cadres, along with the speeding up of land grab and MOUs with
corporations. The continuing witch-hunt of struggling Maruti workers and
the recent spate of arrests of striking workers in Noida, as well as
repression on villagers resisting the POSCO project in Odisha are part of
the larger and increasingly fascist assault on movements. Draconian laws
like the UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act) have become the new
weapon in the hands of the state to arrest and silence workers', peasants'
and student activists across India. A recent manifestation of this
repression is the crackdown and repression on radical cultural activists-
prominently, Jiten Marandi of Jharkhand and artists from Kabir Kala Manch
in Mumbai, but also including several lesser known activists across India.

A cultural political activist involved in mass movements in Jharkhand,
Jiten Marandi had been militantly protesting displacement, loot of natural
resources, exploitation of the adivasis by the state-corporate nexus in
Jharkhand. His songs came to symbolize the voice of people's resistance
and their vision for a new just society. Arrested on fabricated charges of
participation in a Maoist attack in 2008, along with 4 other adivasi
peasant activists, Jiten was swiftly given the death sentence by the
sessions court. The High Court acquitted him December 2011, only to be
re-arrested by the Jharkhand police under the Jharkhand Control of Crime
Act. In March 2013, Jiten has finally been released after having spent 5
years in prison, solely for being a revolutionary cultural activist.
However, his wife, Aparna Marandi, who was arrested last year on a
different charge, still languishes in jail.

In Pune, Maharashtra, Kabir Kala Manch, active since 2002, sang songs and
poetry and staged street plays on caste oppression, atrocities on Dalits,
class inequality and farmer suicides among other issues. Performing among
the common people in slums of the city, they developed into a radical
Ambedkarite-Marxist cultural group. In 2011, two of its members Deepak
Dengle and Siddharth Bhonsle were branded as Naxalites and arrested under
the UAPA. Cases were also filed against other members which forced Sheetal
Sathe, Sachin Mali, Sagar Gorkhe and 3 others to go underground. In
February this year, the Bombay High Court granted bail to the two arrested
members of KKM, and in its judgement claimed that speaking about
corruption, social inequality, exploitation of the poor does not allow one
to be prosecuted as a Maoist. Recently, Sheetal Sathe and Sachin Mali have
voluntarily appeared before the court to be tried in their cases, after 2
years of being underground. Both have been sent to judicial custody after
interrogation by the Anti-Terrorism Squad, and  are likely to be slapped
with charges under UAPA. Similar cases are happening every day. This week,
Sabyasachi Goswami, a revolutionary poet who was released on bail last
year from a prison in West Bengal, was rearrested by the Special Task
Force of the West Bengal police from Kolkata without any charges against

The plight of these activists and groups exposes the state of the right to
free expression in India. While the corporate media increasingly
sensationalizes issues of violation of 'freedom of speech' of celebrities
and privileged writers, it intentionally ignores the suppression of the
cultural freedom of anti-establishment and radical artists. But the issue
at hand is not just of an assault on freedom of speech and creative
expression. It is  the systematic persecution of voices of dissent that
put forward deeply political visions of a revolutionary transformation of
society. Such assertions have become more urgent in these times of an
all-out attack on the working people, resources, livelihoods and radical
left movements in this country. These are people's artists who have used
various cultural forms to expose and challenge various oppressions.
Expressing the concerns and problems of toiling masses, at a time when
imperialist onslaught is producing crass consumerist and desensitized
anti-people culture, we must strive to secure the right of cultural and
political activists to sing, perform and produce revolutionary cultural

Sanhati stands in solidarity with these and other cultural activists. We
believe that increasing onslaught of consumerist culture on one hand and
state repression of cultural activists on the other can only be countered
by forging enduring coordination and solidarity between different radical
cultural-political groups. Hoping that it would lead to exchange of ideas
and active coordination, Sanhati invites radical cultural groups, cultural
activists, pro-people writers, artists and journalists to a Public Meeting
and discussion on State Repression on cultural activists on 5th May
2013 at the Gandhi Peace Foundation.

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