Resist Silent Emergency!-‘People’s Hearing on FABRICATED CASES’-Sept28-29


Dear Friends,

Sub: Invitation to a ‘PEOPLE’S HEARING ON FABRICATED CASES’

Venue: Constitution Club, New Delhi

Dates: September 28 – 29, 2012, Friday, Saturday.

The nightmare of the infamous Emergency of Mrs. Indira Gandhi was supposed to be over in 1977 when it was lifted after two years due to large scale public protest. Political parties, institutions and individuals who defended Emergency were discredited. The sigh of relief evoked a hope for a functioning democracy in India.

But today, we are entering into a similar phase of authoritarian governance without any formal declaration of Emergency. This Silent Emergency has regulated, controlled and restricted all space for democratic public protests against ruling governments. Custodial deaths and encounter killings have become a routine phenomenon. Rape, murder, loot, torture and arrests in Manipur, Nagaland and other north eastern states as well as Kashmir have even crossed the excesses of the Emergency period. Many discriminatory laws have been enacted to silence the Media without a censorship. Several discriminatory laws were enacted to enhance and strengthen the power of the State over civil society and crush dissent.

Laws to facilitate the corporate control and loot over the resources of people are being enacted. This has also become a major reason for the human rights violations against adivasis, dalits, minorities, farmers, fisher people, workers, activists and human rights movements. The human rights defenders who take up burning issues of the people are being targeted. False cases are being fabricated against activists, people’s movements, media, theatre activists, minorities, self-determination movements, dalits and adivasis in a major way. Thus thousands of innocent people are languishing in Indian jails without any trial.

In this context of the Silent Emergency in our country we would like to invite you to attend the ‘PEOPLE’S HEARING ON FABRICATED CASES’ which has the following objectives:

1. To defend fundamental rights, human rights and the Indian Constitution to preserve our democracy

2. To popularize some of the most brazen cases of fabrication of false charges against political dissidents and members of the Muslim, dalit and adivasi communities

3. To facilitate further legal action for freedom of these innocent people

4. To generate pressure on the mainstream media to play a more socially responsible role

5. To generate pressure on the institutions of Indian State for the release of undertrials.

The Programme:

The organizers expect the participation of around 50 victims, their family members or friends whose testimonies will be heard by a jury comprising of judges, lawyers, journalists, human rights activists and artists. After listening to all the presentations the Jury will report their observations and conclusions with clear recommendations for various institutions of the Indian State.

Organisers: Solidarity Youth MovementKerala, Indian Social Action Forum – INSAF, PUCL, AISA, SIO, Right to Food Campaign, KSMTF (Kerala Swathantra Matsya Tizhilali Federation), PPSS (Anti Posco Movement), ICR, Focus on the Global South, Justice for Maudany Forum, Visual Search, Moving Republic, SAHELI, Pedestrian Pictures, National Campaign Against Fabrication of False Cases, http://www.fabricated.in, Jamia Teachers Solidarity Assiciation, Jamia Student Solidarity Forum, Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, National Adivasi Alliance, Kabani – The Other Direction, Human Rights Alert, Dalit Human Rights Movement (DHRM) – Kerala, Forum for Democracy and Communal Amity, Action for Social Equality, INSOCO – Indian Solidarity Committee for freedom democracy & human rights, Center for Harmony and Peace – Varanasi, PUDR, Socialist Front, Student of Resistance.
People’s Hearing on Fabricated Cases

Sept 28-29 Constitution Club, New Delhi

Programme Schedule

28-09-2012, Friday

Inaugural Session: 10am – 11.30am

11.30am – 1.30pm
Issue
Speaker

1
Koodankulam Anti Nuclear
P K Sundaram

2
Anti POSCO Struggle
Abhay Sahoo

3
Jaitapur Anti Nuclear
Vaishali Patil

4
Farmers Group, Madhya Pradesh
Dr. Sunilam

LUNCH BREAK

2.30pm – 6pm
Issue/Case
Speaker

5
Journalist Mhd Ahmed Kazmi
Shauzab Kazmi

6
Soni Sori
Himanshu Kumar

7
Gujarat Fabricated Cases
Zakiya Soman

8
Faseeh Mahmood
Sabih Mahmood, Manisha Sethi

9
Journalist Shahina KK
Shahina KK

10
Seema Azad, UP
Seema Azad

11
Jharkhand
Dayamani Barla

12
Odisha
Prafulla Samantara

13
Chattisgharh
Ajay T.G

14
DHRM, Kerala
Suresh

15
Email Surveillance Victims, Kerala
T. Mohammed Vellom
29-09-2012, Saturday

10am – 1.00pm
Issues
Speaker

16
Kashmir & North East
Anjum Zamrud Habib, Babloo Loitongbam, Kaka D Iralu, Neena Ningombam

17
Abdul Nasar Maudany
Dr. Sebastin Pol, Omar Mukhtar
LUNCH BREAK

2.00pm – 3.30pm
Issues
Speaker

1
Prisoners Issue
SAR Geelani

2
Repressive Laws
Preeti Chauhan, PUDR

3
Increasing repressive state under neoliberalism
Colin Gonsalves
3.30pm – 6.00pm

Concluding Session: Comments from the Jury

Jury:
Justice Rajindar Sachar
Dr. Binayak Sen
Saba Naqvi
Ajit Shahi
Dr. Ram Puniyani
K Satchidanandan

The land of Chup


In May 2011, members of Kabir Kala Manch (KKM), a group of Dalit protest singers and poets from Pune, were accused by the police of being Naxalites. Two KKM members have been in prison for more than a year, while others are hiding, in fear of their safety. The evidence is scanty, mostly to do with supposed ties to Anjali Sontakke, the Naxal ideologue arrested by Maharashtra’s Anti-Terrorist Squad in April last year. Ramu Ramanathan, playwright and part of the KKM Defence Committee, describes their surreal dialogue with the authorities and the ongoing fight for justice

A FEW years ago, I was to modernise Kabir’s dohas in a theatre workshop for architecture students. To make it interesting, I set them into popular rock-’n’roll tunes. And thus, ROCKING AND ROLLING WITH KABIR was born. We threw in a bit of ideology, made Kabir an activist, a Bob Dylan-cum-Jyotiba Phule persona. We ensured the first scene had more noise onstage than the noise in the audience!

The play culminated with Kabir going underground; and then Kabir — the harbinger of peace and progress — being shot. Our premise was simple. Kabir encouraged the synthesis of faith and questioned ideas across different cultures. He invented secular democracy. Unfortunately, the real world is cruel.

Zealotry is an ugly business. When Kabir protested, he was silenced. When Kabir was dead, a girl played a guitar riff; and then a statement condemning the death of Kabir scrolled on the A/V. The signatories were the who’s who of the planet from Socrates to Buddha; from Marx to Gandhi; from Raja Rammohan Roy to Ram Manohar Lohia; from Ghalib to Ambedkar. The final name in the list was: Anand Patwardhan — the eternal protestor. After the show, everyone had a good laugh. It was a little in-house joke.

Today five years since, history repeats itself. Kabir has been jailed. Kabir is underground. Anand Patwardhan and many others form the Kabir Kala Manch (KKM) Defence Committee; to whose coffers Patwardhan donates Rs 50,000.

That was art; this is harsh reality.

Patwardhan, who had first seen a KKM performance in 2007, is now grappling with legalese to get justice for the KKM members with funds fast depleting.

Today, most of the KKM artistes, who performed, are underground and two members, Deepak Dengle and Siddharth Bhonsle are behind bars at the Arthur Road central prison. Branded Naxalites, they were arrested on 12 May 2011 by the State under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).

I recall KKM appearing on Pune’s theatre scene in 2002. The group had young Dalit boys and girls – who sang songs and staged angry plays. They repudiated aesthetics for the politics of the stage. A typical KKM show in the bastis ensured the first scene had to have more noise onstage than the noise in the audience! This was a theatre tactic that Indian People’s Theatre Association put to good use when ideology was on their side. An open truck would enter a crowded mohalla, create a hullabaloo, and the play would be performed on the truck.

This is part of the great Maharashtra tradition of Ambedkar-Phule that is diminishing.

Years ago, the Vidrohi Sammelan, with unflaunted passion, had stated from Dharavi, art and politics can never be separated. The mainstream Sahitya Sammelan with their upper caste writers at Shivaji Park announced their menu of sheera and upma. The Vidrohi announced theirs, beef. The battle lines were drawn. High caste friends said, “This is wrong. After all, shouldn’t we Hindus remain united; or else we’ll become a minority in our own country?”

A typical KKM show in thebastis ensured the first scene had to have more noise onstage than the noise in the audience

The Vidrohi gang is incorrigible. They set up camp against the World Social Forum, which one of them called the “Social World Forum”. They mocked the socialites and do-gooders from across the road. The icons were questioned. It became Globalisation and Stiglitz’s Discontent, and the biggest scam of post-liberalised India: the NGO scam.

Post Godhra, a young students group called Satyashodhak Vidyarthi Sangathan sets up a poster exhibition. It’s not Vivan Sundaram nor Akbar Padamsee, but it’s the first organised protest of its kind against the “Duryodhana of the Hindutva Laboratory”. Police permission is denied. No gallery to exhibit. So, they beat the system.

I mention both examples because in February 2005, KKM members got a crash-course in radicalism from heavy weights of the “vidrohi movement” like Bharat Patankar, Kishore Dhamale, Kishore Jadhav, Dhanaji Gurav and Sudhir Dhawale. That’s where KKM drew their strength from; and their ability to perform guerilla style.

In the later years, KKM came under the State’s radar with its frequent allusions to democracy’s failures, about oppression, and domination of one caste over the other. When Sheetal Sathe sang how Ambedkar said if the Constitution did not give people justice — political, social and economic — his people should overthrow it, the State began to act.

It counter-argues, based on a statement under Section 164 of the criminal procedure code, how KKM members had an affair with the Naxalite ideology of the CPI (Maoist) who indoctrinated them. The charge: training camps in Pune’s Khed taluka, lecturing in support of Angela Sontakke and others, rubbing shoulders with revolutionaries and visiting campuses and bastis with “a message in the service of a cause….”

IT’S BEEN more than a year since Dengle and Bhonsle were arrested. As part of the KKM Defence Committee, we decide to meet the Maharashtra chief minister. Our agenda: to request the State government to withdraw false charges against Shahirs (singer-poets) from KKM. Also Sheetal Sathe, Sagar Gorkhe and Sachin Mali, who are underground due to the fear of torture and a jail term, be provided an opportunity to come ‘overground’. Above all, artistes be allowed to perform.

The CM is a statesman. Pleasantries are exchanged. Tea and poha is served. Patwardhan boots up his Apple Mac and showcases excerpts from his documentary Jai Bhim Comrade on a whitewashed wall. On screen, Sathe and co-members of KKM mobilise audiences. There are sharp witticisms about the abject poverty and discontent in slums. The 15-minute screening concludes.

The CM agrees that human rights are meant to be defended. Promises are made. We exit.

Time passes.

A bit slower for Dengle and Bhonsle in jail.

Meanwhile, the court hearings proceed inside a bleak-looking Sewri Court. The security is humongous and they keep a strict vigil. One day, the judge does not turn up. The legalese and the administrative wrangles seem insurmountable. Plus, the lack of funds to mount a serious challenge.

The 29-year old Dengle who celebrated his wedding anniversary in jail on 14 May, meets us at Sewri Court, his literary inspiration is still not exhausted. He hands me a poem,Inquilab Chaiye. The poem is in Hindi and has a rudimentary rhythm. He sings the firstmukdha: Ek moothi baandho reh baandho/Ek moothi bandho re doston/Bas ek mukka chaiye/Aur ek dhakka chaiye/Inquilab chaiye doston/Inquilab.

The police battalion gather around Dengle. They hear him sing.

letters@tehelka.com

 

India’s uncomfortable truths on film


A look at the career of revolutionary Indian documentary film-maker Anand Patwardhan

Police at a demonstration in India

Police at a demonstration in India (from the film Jai Bhim Comrade) Photograph: Anand Patwardhan

Anand Patwardhan, whose work will be featured in the Sheffield documentary festival next week, is the foremost Indian documentary maker of his generation. Time and time again, in landmark films such as Bombay Our City (1985), In The Name of God (1992) and War and Peace (2002), he has exposed the glaring realities about topics on which modern-day India, wedded to its own PR flannel about becoming a first world economy, does not care to dwell: the rise of nuclear nationalism, the role of political and religious leaders in stoking communalism, the continuing oppression of poorer castes.

Yet Patwardhan, who was born in 1950, never wanted to be a film-maker. Nor, when in 1970 he arrived in Brandeis University, Massachusetts, on a scholarship, did he see himself as particularly political. “It was the most exciting time that one could have been in the US. The anti-Vietnam war protests were a turning point: I went on demonstrations and was sent to jail a couple of times. Other Indian students were more interested in being white than in identifying with black Americans, but I was reading Fanon, excited by the Black Panthers and taking classes in the black studies department.”

Documentaries have always been made in India (and in recent decades there have been prominent examples by directors such as Shyam Benegal, Mani Kaul and Meera Nair), but they rarely receive the distribution or critical attention afforded to Bollywood movies. What’s more, when Patwardhan was starting out in the 70s, having gone back to India and become involved in a people’s movement in the state of Bihar, all non-fiction features were government controlled and, as he puts it, “straight-forward propaganda of ministers cutting ribbons”.

Waves of Revolution (1974) chronicled the upheavals in Bihar, giving voice to a broad coalition of dissenters – students, Gandhians, poor people – excluded from mainstream discourse. Made for virtually no money, using Super-8 film and a cheap cassette recorder for the sound. It established Patwardhan’s reputation as a fearlessly independent maverick operating outside the system. According to Nair Anand was and remains an anomaly. “There’s no one like him …He’s always pursuing an uncomfortable zone and actualising the conflicts in his films. He’s a barometer of integrity.”

One of Patwardhan’s most celebrated films, Bombay Our City, spotlights the immiseration of Dalits whose make-do shelters were constantly being torn down by developers, as well as the casual contempt for them on the part of local elites. Patwardhan depicted Dalits questioning his motives: “You just want to earn a name taking photographs. So don’t take photographs of the poor.” He also included footage of local bards singing songs of poetry and protest, wild songs that revealed, as Frederick Douglass found in the spirituals of black slaves, “the highest joy and the deepest sadness”.

Patwardhan’s latest film Jai Bhim Comrade begins with a clip from Bombay Our City that shows the charismatic singer, poet and activist Vilas Ghogre in full melodious flow. In 1997, however, following the police shooting of 10 unarmed Dalits protesting against the desecration of a shrine to Bhimrao Ambedkar (1891-1956), a visionary leader who was born an “untouchable”, Ghogre hanged himself. His suicide is the starting point for a carefully constructed, far reaching, and by turns pensive and enraging examination of how Dalit men and women are still mistreated by the upper classes and even by some of the politicians who claim to speak for them.

The Latin American “Third Cinema” movement of the 1960s – decrying art for art’s sake and calling for film-as-revolutionary activism – has always been important to Patwardhan. His documentaries, which have frequently riled censors, are for ideological as well as economic reasons ill-suited to the world of the modern Indian multiplex: Jai Bhim Comrade, he says, has found its most passionate and intelligent audiences among the very people whose lives and struggles it chronicles.

“All across Maharashtra [where it’s set] the film is in constant demand: we bought a powerful video projector, made a foldable 20ftx30ft screen and for the past five months have done regular open-air screenings in working-class and Dalit neighbourhoods, organised and sponsored locally. As people cannot afford to hire many chairs, the audience squats on the floor or, incredibly, stands through the entire three hours of the film. We wait for darkness before we begin and the film often goes past the 10pm cut-off point when loudspeakers are officially silenced. But at many venues the local police, who often came from the same caste and class background as the audience, look the other way.”

Jai Bhim Comrade is an inarguable rejoinder to anyone who assumes recent legislation concerning Dalit schooling and quotas for state-sector jobs means that the age of discrimination is over. “All you have to do is to look at the statistics,” Patwardhan says. “Across the country, two Dalits are killed and three raped every day.” The eloquent social critiques delivered by its subjects, as well as the fire and lyrical fervour in their ballads, oratory and street-theatre performances, bear out the claim, delivered by one interviewee: “In every lane there’s a poet, and in every hovel there’s a singer.”

Well over a decade in the making, Jai Bhim Comrade could be seen as a capstone to Patwardhan’s extraordinary career. When I put this notion to him, he was characteristically reflective: “Almost every film that takes a long time to make feels like the last film I will ever make, feels as I have said everything I ever wanted to say. Right now that is how I feel about Jai Bhim Comrade. I am content with the thought of just doing more and more screenings and discussions, and seeing how people grapple with it. After 14 years in labour, I am enjoying the joys of parenthood.”

Jai Bhim Comrade premieres in the UK on 14 June, as part of Sheffield Doc/Fest.