I have been a speaker and poet at innumerable Sahitya Sammelans. I am also a voter in the Sahitya Mahamandal and, therefore, an involved person in how a Sammelan shapes up.
I was invited to chair the poetry session, kavi sammelan, at the Chiplun Sammelan and I had willingly agreed. It was a prestige to be invited. For, the annual Sammelan brings together 20,000 to 25,000 readers and lovers of Marathi literature and poetry. Eventually, given the controversies over Bal Thackeray's name to the main dais and Parshuram's image on the invitation card, I decided to step down both as chairperson of the kavi sammelan and as a member of the audience.
Thackeray was a politician, journalist and cartoonist but he simply did not have any worthwhile contribution to make to the literary world. Besides, his politics was generally anti-Dalit, anti-Muslims, anti-women and anti-outsider. He called one Sahitya Sammelan "bail bazaar" and insulted PL Deshpande, NG Gore and others. Giving his name to the dais meant insulting the deeply progressive tradition of Marathi literature and poetry.
Then, the entire Parshuram-related controversy. I condemned these and conveyed my protest to the organisers. My refusal to attend the Sammelan is not a permanent position but I believe that Marathi writers and poets must take a stand against the increasing tendency of politicians appropriating literary space. This is a disturbing thing and I wish more of us would stand up and protest it.
(As told to Smruti Koppikar)
(Pradnya Daya Pawar lecturer, feminist and well-known Dalit poet)