“Even if they kill the body,
They cannot kill thought,
O religious mercenaries
Can you stop the wheel of progress?”
This opening verse of Sachin Mali’s Marathi song, Sampvila Deh Zari, sets the tone for a poetic but scathing evaluation of Hindutva fascism in India. Sung evocatively by Mali’s partner Sheetal Sathe, the song is a tribute to rationalist activist Narendra Dabholkar, shot dead in 2013, and Communist leader Govind Pansare, killed similarly in 2015. Both are suspected to have been killed by Hindu fundamentalists, who had threatened the activists in the past.
Mali and Sathe are former members of Kabir Kala Manch, a cultural troupe from Pune that performs songs and poems about caste oppression, rationalism, resistance and revolution. The couple, along with other members of Kabir Kala Manch, had been arrested in 2013 for alleged involvement with Naxalites. They are now out on bail, while the charges against them are yet to be proven.
Mali wrote Sampvila Deh Zari in 2015, while still in prison, as a song of defiance. Its verses are full of references to icons of rational, scientific and secular thought throughout history – from philosopher Charavaka and Bhakti saint Tukaram to Galileo, Copernicus, Gandhi and communist playwright Safdar Hashmi. Religious fundamentalists may have tried to destroy all of them, Mali writes, but the ideas and ideologies they stood for continue to thrive.
Read all the articles in the Art of Resistance series here.