By Daisy Katta
Nashik: The Ambedkarite movement in Maharashtra has suffered a setback with the death of Shahir Shantanu Kamble.
The 39-year-old member of the anti-caste movement of Vidrohi Shahiri (resistance poetry performance) died on June 17 of stomach ailment in Nashik.
Kamble, who belonged to Atpadi Taluka in Sangli, was a son of a laborer Napha Kamble. He came to Mumbai in early 2000 to work in an NGO.
Kamble is survived by his wife Deepali.
Growing up in Atpadi, Kamble witnessed oppression of castes first hand. He grew up in a culture which was enriched by various forms of art and performances related to the anti-caste movement.
“It was when he came to Mumbai that his poetry was sharpened ideologically,” recalled Vira Sathidar, an actor and activist. Whenever Kamble presided over any meeting in Mumbai, he would start first by telling the people about the history of poetry and music, why and how it was created and how it came into being, and what is the connection between poetry and the shramik (laborers), Sathidar explained..
Kamble’s poetry and songs not only encompassed the realities of caste oppression, exploitation and inequality but also that of humanity and human relations. He penned one of his most popular songs after the gruesome Khairlanji Caste Atrocity which took place in 2006 in Maharashtra. He was one of the founding members of the Kabir Kala Manch but left it soon after its inception to work with Republic Panthers.
In 2005, he was accused by the Nagpur police of having Maoist connections, however, he was later acquitted after spending around 100 days in jail. The 2014 National award-winning Marathi movie “Court” was based on his life where his friend Sathidar played the lead character of Narayan Kamble.
The tradition of Shahiri was popularized by Mahatma Jyotiba Phule in 1873 in his Satyashodhaks Jalsas (discernment concerts) to bring people together and to protests against the upper castes oppression the medium of songs and theatre. These traditions were taken forward with the rise of Babasaheb Ambedkar during the anti-caste movement in the 1920s.
Unlike the upper caste poetry and performances practiced by Brahmins, Shahiri was a form of a mass folk art of songs and performance which was in the language of the masses.
Throughout his life, Kamble was part of many organizations. But he spent most of hs time dedicated to Republican Panthers, a cultural revolutionary Organization which came into existence after the 1997 Ramabai Nagar Atrocity in Mumbai.