Host of the 10th World Hindi Conference, Bhopal is also home to several eminent Hindi laureates. Four recipients of the fourth-highest civilian award Padma Shri for their contribution towards enrichment of Hindi literature and three Sahitya Akademi award winners call the city their home.
And, the fact that none of them were invited to the World Hindi Conference until a couple of days before its inauguration has left the writers' community in the city fuming.
Now, the likes of veteran writer Vijay Bahadur Singh, who is one of the few eminent writers to receive an invite, have vowed to not attend the conference. "They have invited us as if they are mobilising crowds to attend PM Narendra Modi's rally," he said.
On the other hand, organisers maintain that it's the World Hindi Conference and not a Vishwa Hindi Sahitya Sammelan and hence it was not imperative to invite all the top Hindi laureates or offer them special privileges.
"It's true that we are focussing more on how use of Hindi could be expanded in other spheres of activities like science, medical courses, engineering, administration, law etc. Literature and laureates have had central focus in successive Hindi conferences but it is not the case this time round," said Anil Madhav Dave, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP and vice-president of the conference's organising committee.
Sahitya Akademi-winning poet and novelist Rajesh Joshi, however, contends that language cannot be separated from its literature.
"It's literature that brings identity to a language. Can you imagine a conference on promotion of English without reference to Shakespeare, TS Eliot and Hemmingway. How can they divorce literature from language and talk about Hindi sans its literary history. It's not an insult of Hindi writers but the language itself. We are just listening of two names in context of the World Hindi Conference - Narendra Modi and Amitabh Bachchan. They could not find a single Hindi laureate to sit with them on the dais. BJP-RSS do not respect writers and intellect is no secret," he said.
Eminent Hindi poet Udayan Vajpeyi, when asked what could be reason for organisers to overlook laureates, said, "They are afraid of intellect. And, I would like to add that a government which is afraid of intellectuals cannot be democratic." Vajpeyi added that as far as he knows, none of the noted Hindi writers in Bhopal have been invited for the conference.
Padma Shri awardee Manzoor Aihtesham said, "It could have easily been avoided. People working seriously in the sphere of literature won't go in such events anyway. I feel they, perhaps, wish to tell us that they don't care. It is a pity, a downright silly act that could have been avoided."