A call for harmony

Updated: 18 November, 2020 08:08 IST | Shunashir Sen | Mumbai

A musical event this weekend will highlight the plight of political activists locked behind bars

Narayanswamy
Narayanswamy

Justice delayed is justice denied. That's the maxim that some people have brought up in connection to political activists who have been imprisoned without their bail pleas being heard, some for years on end. The country's criminal justice system is in the spotlight at a time when people are voicing their concern about the pending cases of activists Varavara Rao, Sudha Bharadwaj, Shoma Sen and hundreds of others like them who have been spending their nights in jail cells. Recently, disability groups and citizens also raised their voices about basic amenities like a sipper not being allowed to Fr Stan Swamy, who suffers from Parkinsonism and is in jail.

Those are some of the issues that will be raised at a protest performance this weekend. Titled Here to Stay: Ideas Cannot be Arrested, it features four different sets of artistes who have one thread in common — all of them have consistently raised their voice against perceived injustice through the medium of their art. There's Kaladas Deheriya, a member of the Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha, who writes poetry about the plight of workers there. Narayanswamy, meanwhile, is a musician who composes tunes on caste, gender and land oppression, living atop a hill in Karnataka's Kolar region. Then there's Wannadaf, a collective of Bengaluru-based rappers who spit rhymes against systemic injustice. And Yalgaar, a group of singers and theatre practitioners, will shift the focus to Maharashtra, raising a voice against caste-based hatred.

Yalgaar members at a live gig
Yalgaar members at a live gig

Dhammrakshit Randive, one of the core team members at Yalgaar, tells us that the concert was organised keeping two things in mind. One is that the lockdown took a huge toll on performing artistes of all hues since their income streams dried up. The gig is thus aimed at generating revenue for those participating in it. But more importantly, it's aimed at highlighting how — at a time when governments across the world are trying to free space in jails due to the pandemic — the Indian government used this period as an opportunity to put perceived dissidents behind bars to silence their voices, Randive says. He adds, "That's why we thought that we would raise the motto that ideas cannot be arrested. We had organised a similar event with the collective, Maraan, in 2014 in the wake of activists like Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare being shot dead. Now, we have again taken the responsibility on our shoulders of putting this thought forward, that ideas indeed can't be arrested."

The message he hopes to leave the audience with is this: "We want to tell people that we are all citizens of India, and we have to understand the Constitution of India. The preamble contains its basic ideology — there is socialism, secularism, freedom, justice and equality. If artistes can understand these five values, they can then incorporate them and foster an environment of gender equality while eradicating caste- and class-based biases. But what's happening is that the general Indian public is not really aware of the Constitution, since they are fed more on a diet of religious myths."

Kaladas Deheriya
Kaladas Deheriya

But does Randive see any ray of hope of the authorities redeeming this situation? "None at all; that's the problem."

On November 21, 7.30 pm
Email angarika@maraa.in
Cost Rs 300

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First Published: 18 November, 2020 07:27 IST

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