Monday Musings: Marathi literary body must become fiercely independent
Thoughts and ideas expressed by writers, thinkers and philosophers are one of the most liberating of human experiences.
They can be extremely powerful, transformative, constructive or destructive, but above all, thought-provoking. They make people think about what is happening around them and have the power to influence change.
The capacity to think and imagine a better future, and discard rotten traditions, customs, practices and beliefs, emerges from the seemingly infinite potential of the human mind. When put into words, this becomes literature in one form or the other.
A society that aspires to be great must, therefore always give freedom to its writers and critics. You have the freedom to agree or disagree with what writers and thinkers say but do not, at any cost, tamper with their freedom. Because to shackle them is to shackle ourselves.
That brings us to the pathetic state of the apex body of Marathi literature, the Akhil Bharatiya Marathi Sahitya Mahamandal. This body organises the annual Marathi literary meet and the latest fiasco over the withdrawal of the invitation to the eminent writer, Nayantara Sahgal from the 92nd literary meet is quite telling.
The invitation was withdrawn over the flimsy protest by some people and fringe political groups in Vidarbha. They objected to an ‘English writer being invited to a Marathi literary meet’ and threatened to disrupt the proceedings of the literary meet.
Succumbing to this threat, the organisers meekly withdrew the invitation to Sahgal to inaugurate the lit fest and issued a written apology. A few days later, the Mahamandal president Shripad Joshi tendered his resignation.
As all of this unfolded, the Devendra Fadnavis government remained a mute spectator and the eminent social activist and writer Vidya Bal correctly noted that the government had failed miserably to reassure the organisers against threats and intimidation by offering security to Sahgal.
The correct position for the Mahamandal would have been to throw the ball in the government’s court and demand that adequate security be provided to Sahgal.
Also, it should never again take a meek, cowardly stand in the face of threats from troublemakers. The Mahamandal will be able to demonstrate such courage only when it becomes financially independent and does not have to depend on the largesse of the state government.
Literary meets are festivals of thoughts and ideas where writers come forward to boldly present a point of view, stoke the imagination and stir the minds of the masses. They lose value and significance if they are reduced to tame, also-ran events.