Mumbai: Singing parodical songs against the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been presented as one of the grounds for arresting singers and activists of the cultural troupe Kabir Kala Manch (KKM) in the Elgar Parishad case. In its response to a petition filed in the Bombay high court by the vocalists of KKM, Sagar Gorkhe (32) and Ramesh Gaichor (38) challenging their arrest, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has cited their songs which critique Narendra Modi and certain BJP policies as one of the grounds for arrest.
The NIA produced a translated version of their songs in its response. The songs, apart from mocking Modi also deliver a stinging commentary on so-called ‘cow vigilante’ groups, the BJP’s political agenda around Ram Mandir and the Brahmanical order.
“…My name is Bhaktendra Modi. My speech is simple. My living is simple. And the coat is also one in lakhs. Hey, who is here? Don’t pay attention to the opposition… So, my speech is simple, my living is simple, but, if anybody comes after me, his elimination is certain,” the NIA translates one of KKM’s songs.
In another song, taking a dig at Modi’s monthly radio programme “Mann ki Baat”, the cultural troupe asks those following Modi to drink gaumutra (cow urine) when thirsty and cow dung to satiate hunger. “Be vegetarian… vegetarian meal is the best meal. You will have achche din, achche din, achche din,” the song concludes.
While the songs were originally sung in Marathi, the central agency has provided only a translation of the songs in its application. The Wire, however, was not able to confirm if the agency’s translation remains true to the original version of these songs. KKM is popular for its confrontational songs and sharp takes on the government and its anti-people policies. In the past, KKM had not spared the Congress government from criticism either.
Along with the songs, the agency has also relied upon evidence from 2011 and 2012 and has claimed that the KKM activists were in touch with absconding Naxal leader Milind Teltumbde. Interestingly, that evidence is already a part of the earlier chargesheet in which both Gorkhe and Gaichor were named as accused. In the case registered by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS), the duo had been jailed for four years, from 2013 to early 2017. While the trial in the earlier case is still pending, the NIA has also used the allegations of the past case against the two singers, citing the purported ‘conspiracy and arms training’ in the forests of Gadchiroli. To back this claim up, the NIA has attached a witness statement from the chargesheet, which claims that the duo had met Milind Teltumbde and “discussed” their plans to spread Naxalism in urban spaces.
Gorkhe and Gaichor were arrested in connection with the Elgar Parishad case on September 7 after being interrogated for several days at the NIA office in Mumbai. The duo, through their friends, had got a pre-recorded video released soon after their arrest, which claimed that they were forced by the NIA to give statements against other activists and lawyers already arrested in the case. The NIA, however, in the reply to the plea has claimed that it is their “standard strategy” to make imputations against the lawful authority.
The NIA further goes on to add that the duo was already named as accused in the original FIR filed by the local Pune police and which had investigated the case until January 24 this year, when the case was suddenly handed over to the NIA. The agency has claimed that since they were named as accused, it had never considered making them witnesses in the case.
Gorkhe and Gaichore are among the 16 persons, all activists, lawyers and academics, arrested in connection with the Elgar Parishad case of 2018. Gorkhe and Gaichor are both well-known singers and anti-caste activists based in Pune. They were part of the ‘Bhima Koregaon Shaurya Din Prerana Abhiyan’ – a banner under which the Elgar Parishad event was organised on December 31, 2017, at Pune’s Shaniwarwada area, known to be a predominantly Brahmin hub. The police, following a complaint by a right-winger Tushar Damgude, had named six persons in the FIR for allegedly trying to incite violence between two communities – the Marathas and Dalits – in Pune. Eventually, more names were added and arrests were made across the country.
Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said the NIA’s submission was in response to a bail petition. It was, in fact in response to a petition challenging the arrest of Gorkhe and Gaichor.