Kabir Samman to Ashok Vajpeyi?
NEITHER POET-CRITIC Ashok Vajpeyi nor the State’s Culture Department that he served as an IAS officer for a long time during successive Congress rules is stranger to controversies.
But the controversy in the offing has been created by neither of the two. It is the jury for the MP Government’s prestigious Kabir Samman that has put the Culture Department in a quandary by unanimously recommending Ashok Vajpeyi for the award. The award is given for excellence in poetry in Indian languages.
Culture Minister Laxmikant Sharma admitted that the jury has recommended Ashok Vajpeyi’s name for Kabir Samman. When asked whether the award would be conferred on him, Sharma said that he has also received complaint from jury members themselves that they were not informed about the meeting in time.
“I have asked for more information in this regard and once it is received, I will decide”, he said. The dilemma is acute; accepting the recommendation would mean offending the RSS and rejection means insult of the jury that comprised eminent writer-thinkers G C Pandey and Vagish Shukla.
Ashok Vajpeyi’s views on Sangh Parivar are no secret. In the aftermath of the Godhra, he along with eminent writer Mahashweta Devi had vigorously campaigned in the literary circles for condemnation of the Narendra Modi Government.
The Culture Department is already under fire from the RSS cultural police for honouring artistes and writers opposed to its ideology with State’s awards.
The duo of Laxmikant Sharma and former Commissioner, Culture, Pawan Jain had been under attack from an influential RSS lobby for allegedly promoting anti-RSS artistes and writers.
A complaint to this effect was lodged with the BJP top brass, and ultimately Jain lost the assignment, so very dear to him. Noted lyricist and poet Javed Akhtar and Nida Fazli were among the names mentioned in this context in the complaint.
Kishore Kumar Samman was conferred on Javed Akhtar while Fazli was given Shikhar Samman of the State Government last year.
Both Javed and Fazli had been vocal in denouncing the BJP regime in Gujarat during post-Godhra riots. Both are very articulate secularists.
Fazli, who hails from former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’ s hometown Gwalior, had strongly condemned the then Prime Minister for the Gujarat riots. All these ‘facts’ had been brought to the notice of BJP top brass in Delhi. It was also said that artistes and writers, close to the Congress and the Communist parties, continue to be in favour during the present regime as well.
Both Sharma and Jain had been summoned by top BJP leaders in Delhi to clarify their position vis-à-vis the charge. There was one more complaint: more Muslim artistes and writers have been felicitated by the BJP Government during two years of its rule than Digvijay Singh’s decade-long stint.