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Sayli Udas Mankikar, Hindustan Times
Chiplun, January 12, 2013
There is nothing wrong in the involvement of politicians in the literary meet, Union agriculture minister and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar said at the inauguration of the 86th Akhil Bharatiya Marathi Sahitya Sammelan at Chiplun on Friday. The appointment of water resources minister Sunil Tatkare as the welcome committee chairman and the use of the development funds of 15 legislators for the festival had led to objections from several quarters. “Many writers and literary experts have been members of the legislature. We have never objected to it. Then why is the involvement of politicians being questioned? We too can appreciate literature,” said Pawar.

Criticising the opposition over naming of a dais after his late friend and Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray, he said: “I am glad with the move. Thackeray’s writings as a journalist were aggressive and in a different league altogether. Even I was targeted in his write-ups on several occasions. But, we cannot deny his contribution to the field of writing.”

Addressing an audience of over 5,000 people, Pawar slammed the organisers for opposing the special granth dindi (procession of books) that was finally held unofficially from the house of Muslim author Hamid Dalwai to the festival venue. Local Muslims and the Seerat committee had opposed the procession, stating that Dalwai’s progressive writings were not acceptable.

The Rashtra Seva Dal and some progressive Muslims held the procession, which was finally welcomed by the organisers. “Whether locals like Dalwai or not, one cannot deny his contribution. People have the right to carry out a procession to honour him,” said Pawar.

The minister blamed the media for creating controversies around the festival. “They have a 24-hour job for which they need constant fodder,” he said.

Pawar, who has been a pioneer in introducing women reservation in local self-government and corporations, said women writers too should be encouraged.

“We still do not see enough women writers at the festival. There should also be special sessions to encourage discussions on women’s issues,” he added.