PUNE: Shantanu Kamble, one of the founding members of Kabir Kala Manch (KKM), a left leaning group, breathed his last in Nashik on Wednesday. He was born in Shetphale village of Atpadi taluka in Sangli district. The poet, songwriter and performer, was arrested in 2005 by Nagpur police on allegations of Naxal links and later released. He was 39-years-old.
Kamble came to Mumbai from Atpadi and stayed in the Barkat Ali Nagar slums of Mumbai. “He was 20 years old when I met him. We worked for the same NGO. He had deep anger about injustice within him,” said Vira Sathidar, actor of the film ‘Court’, and an activist himself, adding, “We both detested the way NGOs functioned to suppress injustice and left the job to join activism.”
“He was formed from his experience as a Dalit. He saw the conditions of the slums around him and the Lalbaug-Parel area which used to be the heartland of mill workers once upon a time. He made lines like: Kamgar kamgar oradnare kuthe gele bai, ani Lalbaug cha rang bhagwa, kuni kela bai... (Where have the persons gone who used to shout for workers, and who changed the colour of Lalbaug to saffron?).”
His poetry was powerful and sharp and yet was gentle and full of love and positivity, claims Jyoti Jagtap, a member of KKM. “By the time I joined KKM, he had moved on, but my husband Sagar, sang me his poem, Samtechya Vatene... Walk the path of equality my love, and that poem made me fall in love with Sagar. Such was the power of his poems. They had content and emotions,” said Jyoti.
Later, the Kabir Kala Manch faced several arrests and accusations of links to Naxalites. The group broke up and there were internal differences. After his release from prison, a dismayed Shantanu tried working with political parties in Nashik. “He tried working with the AITUC, the BhaRiPa Bahujan Mahasangh and even the RPI. He had fights and differences with everyone because of his honesty about ideology,” said Sathidar, adding, “He was dismayed by the situation of the people’s movements. He was broken inside and turned to vices. Many of the other idols of the Vidrohi music movement sold their soul for money and fame and recognition.”