Two cultural activists the Maharashtra anti-terrorism squad suspects to have links with CPI (Maoists) surrendered at Nariman Point’s Inox junction near Vidhan Bhavan on Tuesday afternoon. Sheetal Sathe and Sachin Mali refused to be identified as naxals when they courted arrest to the Marine Drive police. They insisted their gesture was a satyagraha (protest). “We are not naxals. The charges against us are false,” said Sathe.
Social activist Anand Patvardhan and Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh chief Prakash Ambedkar accompanied the duo. Ambedkar pledged support to the activists. “They should be tried fairly in the court of law and we will provide them all legal support,” Ambedkar told media.
The Marine Drive police conducted a preliminary enquiry and handed them to ATS officials. A few of their supporters were distributing pamphlets near Vidhan Bhavan which stated that the cases registered against the couple, who hail from Pune, are fake and they would fight it legally.
Sheetal Sathe, 30, a postgraduate from Fergusson College, and her husband Sachin Mali, has been on the run ever since 2011 when the ATS arrested seven alleged Maoists.
According to the ATS, the two had links with alleged Maoists Angela Sontakke, Sushma Ramteke alias Shraddha Gurav, Nandini Bhagat alias Mayuri, Jyoti Chorge and Anuradha Sonule alias Aditi Kadam who were arrested from Thane, Pune and other parts of Maharashtra between April and May 2011, for spreading Maoist ideology.
ATS sources said Sheetal was the president and backbone of the Pune-based ‘leftist cultural group’ Kabir Kala Manch, which was formed in 2002 after the Gujarat riots. With students and professionals as its members, Kabir Kala Manch ostensibly drew its inspiration from Kabir’s poetry, and conveyed social messages through public performances, said sources. Sheetal also used to pen and sing her own songs also which would touch upon feminism, casteism, equality and unbridled capitalism.
The focus on this cultural group came after Angela’s arrest.
Rakesh Maria, additional director general of police (ATS), said, “They were wanted in the case registered in 2011 along with Angela Sontakke. We will produce them before a court on Wednesday, and seek their custoday.”