Mahamandal president resigns over Sahgal’s invite withdrawal for 92nd Marathi Lit festival in Pune
Shripad Joshi, president of the Akhil Bharatiya Marathi Sahitya Mahamandal resigned on Wednesday following sharp criticism over the withdrawal of invitation as keynote speaker to eminent writer Nayatara Sahgal.
“I have sent an email tendering my resignation to the organisers and I have been portrayed in a wrong manner. I plan to meet Nayantara Sahgal in Delhi and explain my situation,” Joshi said in a statement.
Sahgal had been invited by the Mahamandal president to be the chief guest and the keynote speaker at the 92nd Akhil Bharatiya Marathi Sahitya Sammelan, which she had accepted. The prestigious Marathi literary meet is scheduled to begin at Yavatmal on January 11.
However, the invitation was withdrawn after protests from political groups including the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), for inviting a writer in English to a Marathi literary meet. MNS chief Raj Thackeray later apologised for the conduct of his party leaders.
In a media release on Sunday, Ramakant Kolte, member of the organising committee of the sammelan, said, “ We have sent her an apology letter and also a letter to state that in her state (old age) it would be inappropriate for her to travel so far and be disappointed if she won’t be able to attend, hence, we have requested her to accept our apology and have withdrawn the invitation.”
The withdrawal of invitation to Sahgal resulted in fierce criticism from a number of writers, with calls from prominent writers and social activist such as Vidya Bal to boycott the event.
Bal, who was to receive an award at the literary meet said she would boycott the sammelan to register her protest.
“This sammelan was of historic importance for two reasons; one being that Aruna Dhere is the first woman president of the Sammelan and second, that Nayantara had agreed to be part too despite her age and her health. The organisers have not just insulted Nayantara by withdrawing the invite, but also Aruna Dhere and the government of Maharashtra. Sahgal is not just a national figure, but known internationally and even the government has not taken cognisance of this great author. Is the Chief Minister not capable of controlling and protecting this sammelan from being disrupted?” Bal asked.
On Tuesday, however, a number of writers from Pune opposed the call to boycott the literary meet and issued a signed statement. The statement said that while they strongly oppose the withdrawal of the invitation to Sahgal, they will not oppose the sammelan. They also appealed to other writers not to boycott the literary meet as it would be extremely disappointing to the thousands of lovers of literature who would be attending the event.
Vice-president of the sammelan, author Vidya Deodhar, said, “I will be reaching Yavatmal soon and tomorrow we have a meeting with all the organisers, where upon, as vice-president I will preside over the meeting. The decision on who the keynote speaker will be, will then be decided.”
The organisers of the sammelan are still trying to focus the event, which will begin on January 11 in Yavatmal, on 250 publishers and book sellers from across the state, who have already begun setting up their stalls.
Anil Kulkarni, publisher from Pune, said, “The conflict is between the mahamandal and the organisers. We are going there for the love of literature and to bring books, especially Marathi prose which is popular to the various book lovers. We have no interest in getting embroiled in this fight and we are backing the sammelan and the organisers. There are limited options to buy good prose and poetry in the areas of Yavatmal and this is a good opportunity for us to be part of a sammelan after 45 years in this area.”
Vishal Soni, publisher, Vishwakarma publications said, “This ongoing fight does not affect us in any way and those who love reading literature are travelling from across the state to be part of the sammelan. We are in Yavatmal for the love of literature and we represent the authors and the books they have written.”