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Monday, Nov 18, 2019

Marathi Sahitya Parishad: Pune-based writers criticise withdrawal of Sahgal’s invite

On Monday, however, MNS chief Raj Thackeray expressed regret over the opposition to Sahgal by some members of his party.

pune Updated: Jan 08, 2019 15:25 IST
Prachi Bari
Prachi Bari
Hindustan Times, Pune
Author Nayantara Sahgal’s invitation was withdrawn after protests from political groups including the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), on inviting a writer in English to a Marathi literary meet.
Author Nayantara Sahgal’s invitation was withdrawn after protests from political groups including the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), on inviting a writer in English to a Marathi literary meet. (HT FILE PHOTO )
         

A number of writers have criticised the withdrawal of invitation to well-known author Nayantara Sahgal to the 92nd Akhil Bharatiya Marathi Sahitya Parishad at Yavatmal from January 11.

Sahgal had been invited by the Akhil Bharatiya Marathi Sahitya Mahamandal president Shripad Joshi, to be the chief guest and the keynote speaker at the session in Yavatmal which she had accepted.

However, her invitation was withdrawn after protests from political groups including the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), on inviting a writer in English to a Marathi literary meet.

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so far and be disappointed if she won’t be able to attend, hence, we have requested her to accept our apology and have withdrawn the invitation.”

On Monday, however, MNS chief Raj Thackeray expressed regret over the opposition to Sahgal by some members of his party.

In Pune, a number of writers criticised the withdrawal of the invitation to Sahgal.

Laxmikant Deshmukh, outgoing president of the Pune-headquartered Akhil Bharatiya Marathi Sahitya Parishad criticised the withdrawal of the invitation to Sahgal.

“I condemn this kind of action taken by the organisers against such a well-known author. She is hailed as one of the strongest author and has strong views on contemporary topics and has raised many concerns on the workings of the present government. She is also the first author to begin the award wapasi movement. I was delighted to hear that she was going to be part of the Sahitya Sammelan at Yavatmal and now I feel sad at the way she has been treated,” Deshmukh said.

He felt that this would curtail the freedom of speech and expression in the country.

Nagnath Kottapalle, former vice-chancellor of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Marathwada University and an ex-president of the Sahitya Sammelan, also expressed disappointment with the Mahamandal. He said, since it was the literary body which had invited her to be the chief guest in the first place, it was now insulting her by withdrawing the invitation after she had accepted it.

He described the pressures put on the organisers and their reaction as “bowing down to demands of ‘gundagardi’ (hooliganism).”

Aruna Dhere, president of the Akhil Bharatiya Marathi Sahitya Parishad expressed shock and said, “You don’t extend an invitation to a great author and then withdraw it just days before the sammelan is to begin, under political pressure. In fact she should be treated with respect as authors, creative writers and artistes should all be seen as people beyond politics.”

Writer R Raj Rao and former head of the English Department at the Savitribai Phule Pune University said, “It is shameful and shocking that such acts amount to censoring the author’s freedom of expression. Sahgal is known to be critical of the present regime and she is not isolated, but the entire liberal intelligentsia of the country including me stand behind her in her criticism of the ruling party.”

Rao recalled that two years ago Sahgal was at the centre of a controversy at the Hyderabad literature festival when her keynote speech was critical of the government.

A recipient of the Sahitya Akademi award, Sahgal (91), a member of the Gandhi-Nehru family, was at the forefront of the 2015 “awardwapsi” campaign against “growing intolerance in the country”.

Last week, Ahmadiyya writer Basharat Ahmed was prevented from speaking at the 12th Akhil Bhartiya Muslim Marathi Sahitya Sammelan at Pune’s Azam Campus, after protests from a group of Muslims on grounds that his views were critical of the Muslim faith.

Speaking on the Sahgal controversy, Ahmed said, “This is very unfortunate and in bade taste by the Marathi Sahitya Parishad. This is not the first time a non-Marathi scholar has been invited for the sammelan. Girish Karnad, Manoj Bajpai, Gulzar, Javed Akhtar, Kamaleshwer, all non-Marathi scholars, were invited and nobody ever objected to their presence. I appeal to the literature fraternity to abandon the conference and stand with Nayantara Sahagal.”

Senior writer and social activist Vidya Bal, who was to receive an award at the 92nd Akhil Bharatiya Marathi Sahitya Parishad, she has boycotted the sammelan in lieu of the way organisers have behaved with Nayantara Sahgal. “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. 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 Chief Minister not capable of controlling and protecting this sammelan from being disrupted? ”