Sandhya Sathe looks tired as she emerges from the Byculla women’s jail on Monday.
She has travelled from Pune to Mumbai for her weekly meeting with her daughter, Sheetal Sathe, who has been in judicial custody for two weeks.
Sheetal, 27, and her husband Sachin Mali, both Pune-based singers and poets from the cultural group Kabir Kala Manch (KKM), were arrested in Mumbai on April 2 under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act for their alleged association with the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist).
Sheetal, whose bail application will be heard on Wednesday, is six months pregnant.
“My daughter and her group sing about poverty, caste discrimination and women’s rights. But there has never been any instance of violence breaking out because of their songs,” says Sathe, 50, who lives in Pune’s Bhavanipet slum and spoke to HT outside the prison.
Until a year ago, Sathe worked as a sweeper in a private hospital in Pune. She also worked as a part-time domestic help with two families who had helped fund Sheetal’s education in a private Marathi-medium school. Sheetal went on to do her Master’s in sociology at Fergusson College, topping her class.
Sachin Mali, who comes from a poor family in Sangli, was a student at the same college, also a gold medallist in his subject, Marathi.
In 2003, Sheetal and Mali joined KKM, a cultural organisation of students and professionals who performed protest music in villages and colleges across the state. Sachin, who married Sheetal seven years ago, also worked as a bus conductor with the Pune Municipal Corporation.
“After the police began hunting for KKM members two years ago, my family cut me off and I was asked to quit my job at the hospital,” says Sathe, a widow since 2007.
She now hopes Sheetal and Sachin are granted bail. “Sheetal has lost a lot of weight because of the food in jail. I worry about her,” she says.