The report on May 8 on a so-called “surrender” under a Maharashtra government scheme that offers inducements to Naxalites who give themselves up was false and defamatory.
Four members of the Kabir Kala Manch (KKM), a cultural troupe from Pune, who had been accused of being associated with Naxalites by the state and had consequently gone into hiding for two years, did a satyagraha for their freedom of expression.
At 3 pm on May 7, Sagar Gorkhe, Rupali Jadhav, Ramesh Gaichor and Jyoti Jadhav arrived in front of Dr Ambedkar’s statue in south Mumbai with their lawyers and members of the Kabir Kala Manch Defence Committee, which included Dr Ambedkar’s grandson, Prakash Ambedkar, Comrade Prakash Reddy of the CPI, and myself.
Here, in front of the media, they sang songs, made speeches and distributed leaflets declaring that they were not guilty and were coming out of hiding to fight for their freedom of expression and submit themselves to the rule of law.
After paying a floral tribute to Dr Ambedkar and distributing CDs of their songs, they walked to Mantralaya. Members of the anti-terrorist Squad (ATS), which had declared them wanted under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, were nowhere to be seen for more than two hours.
The “wanted” then walked to Prakash Ambedkar’s office nearby. An hour later, home minister RR Patil agreed to meet the group in his Mantralaya office. In front of the home minister, the KKM sang a ‘Lal Salaam’ (Red Salute).
They wore blue headbands to indicate support for the Dalit cause. The ATS finally arrived. They arrested Sagar and Ramesh, but chose not to arrest their spouses, Rupali and Jyoti.
The next day, the two arrested were officially sent to ATS custody for six days of “questioning”.
The KKM has denied that they are members of any banned organisation and, therefore, the question of surrender does not arise.
The implication that, a “surrender” took place under a state policy which offers financial inducements in return for information, gravely damages the reputation of this brave and principled cultural troupe. It also defames members of the Kabir Kala Manch Defence Committee who accompanied them at the Satyagraha.
— Anand Patwardhan, for Kabir Kala Manch Defence Committee