Theatre activists Sheetal Sathe and Sachin Mali were arrested on 2 April 2013 on various charges, including criminal conspiracy and for alleged links to Maoists and Naxalites. They are being held in Mumbai, India, and according to Amnesty International they are at risk of torture or other ill-treatment.
Sheetal Sathe and Sachin Mali are members of Kabir Kala Manch, a group which consists mainly of Dalit students and professionals who uses protest songs and street plays to campaign on human rights issues, including dalit rights and caste-based violence and discrimination in the western Indian state of Maharashtra.
Amnesty International wrote:
“On 17 April 2011, they were two of 15 people charged by the police under India’s principal anti-terror legislation of being members of, and supporting and recruiting people for, the Communist Party of India (Maoist) – a banned armed group fighting for more than a decade to overthrow elected governments in several Indian states. They also faced several criminal charges including extortion, forgery and impersonation.
Seven people were arrested, while the others – including Sheetal Sathe and Sachin Mali, who are married to each other – could not be traced by the police until earlier this month.
On 2 April 2013, Sheetal Sathe and Sachin Mali appeared before the legislative assembly of Maharashtra in what they said was a protest against the charges levelled against them. They were arrested by the Mumbai Police and brought before a magistrate, who remanded Sheetal Sathe to judicial custody until 17 April, and Sachin Mali to police custody until 10 April.
According to her mother, Sheetal Sathe is six months pregnant. Activist and documentary filmmaker Anand Patwardhan was present with Sheetal Sathe and Sachin Mali on 2 April. He said, “Due to our previous experience with the police, we are apprehensive of what may happen to Sachin Mali in police custody.”
Reports of torture and forced confessions by police in India are very common, and the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad, a unit of the state police, has in particular faced several allegations of torture.
The Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), under which they have been charged, uses sweeping and overbroad definitions of ‘acts of terrorism’ and ‘membership’ of ‘unlawful’ organizations, and does not comply with India’s international legal obligations.”
Amnesty International calls for supporters to write immediately to the Maharashtra authorities urging them to ensure that Sheetal Sathe, Sachin Mali and the other accused activists are tried in proceedings that meet international fair trial standards, and that they are not tortured.
Amnesty International – 5 April 2013:
Arrested theatre activists at risk of torture
Mumbai Theatre Guide – 4 April 2013:
Sheetal Sathe and Sachin Mali of Kabir Kala Manch court arrest…