Muslim Marathi literature meet in Pune: Basharat Ahmed’s ouster irks organisers
The cancellation of a talk by well-known Ahmadiyya writer and poet Basharat Ahmed following a public protest in Pune on Friday was the first disappointing incident of its kind in the 29 years of the Akhil Bharatiya Muslim Marathi Sahitya Samelan, organisers of the event said here on Saturday.
Slogans were raised outside the assembly hall of Azam Campus in Pune, Camp after the Friday prayers, demanding that poet Basharat Ahmed from Latur should not be allowed to speak at the event. Some of the protestors alleged that his views were heretical and critical of the Muslim faith.
A sizeable crowd had gathered immediately after the Friday prayers even as the Cantonment police were on standby since early in the morning. Ahmed was slated to speak during one of the three days of the Sahitya Sammelan.
“This movement of writing in Marathi language began 30 years ago and Basharat Ahmed is one of the past presidents of this Sammelan, where authors, poets, novelists, playwrights, all meet to express their views in Marathi. We never thought of him as an outsider,” said Sheikh Iqbal Minne, president of the Akhil Bhartiya Muslim Marathi Sahitya Sammelan.
“ We are all here in Pune to speak about literature. Basharat Ahmed is a well-known author and he too is aware that this is not a religious programme nor there is any discussion based on religion. This is the first time that some of the protestors tried to stop such a literary meet. But we have managed to convince them that this is only a literary meet,” Minne said.
AK Shaikh, an author from Panvel said that while there are many sects in the Muslim community, all have always worked together for the literary meet and never has anyone asked which sect one belongs to. But ever since the Sammelan became popular, it was drawing attention on a larger scale.
“Basharat Ahmed comes from the Qadayani or Ahmadiyya sect and his thought process is different and many people within the community don’t like it. All these years he has never said anything regarding his sect and this is the first time that people in Pune feel that he might say something and create a dispute,” Shaikh said.
The three days 12th Akhil Bhartiya Muslim Marathi Sahitya Sammelan which began at Azam Campus on Saturday, had a slow start on the second day with many of the speakers missing from the list of invitees, after the protests against Basharat Ahmed’s talk, which was slated to be the biggest draw of the literary meet.
Ahmed was the chief guest and the main speaker on the topic of religious polarisation and the movement of equality.
According to members of the organising committee, Ahmed opted out of the event, even though he had arrived in Pune after he was informed about the protest.
Rajib Ahmed, from Jalgaon, said the protestors and the author were right in their own ways as they were expressing their views freely. “I think from the protesters point of view, they would be worried about Basharat’s views being misinterpreted even though he is a literary figure,” he said.
The event was being hosted by Maharashtra Cosmopolitan Education (MCE) Society’s Azam Campus led by educationist PA Inamdar, in association with Muslim Marathi Sahitya Sanskrutik Mandal.
“My role is simply to promote Marathi language and this is not a religious meet. It is a coincidence that the government of Maharashtra is also holding the 15 day Marathi language promotion at the same time,” Inamdar said.
‘Organisers should have taken a firm stand’
Basharat Ahmed is an author who belongs to the Ahmadiyya Muslim jamaat was looking forward to participate in the 12th Akhil Bhartiya Muslim Marathi Sahitya Sammelan which began here on Friday had to return home to Osmanabad. “I got a request from the Pune police not to come to the venue, Azam Campus, for the fear of a riots. I also have it in writing from the organising committee that it would be best if I stayed away,” he said.
This is not the first time that Ahmed has faced this kind of threat. “It was in the 2004 Sammelan which was held in Kolhapur where the same group of people belonging to Jamate Islamic Hind Sanghatana had threatened me against presenting my thoughts. However, the organisers of the Sammelan were firm in their views and had said that if I was not allowed the Sammelan wouldn’t be held. But this time, the organisers did not show support and gave in to the demands of these protestors who under the name of Jamate Islamic Hind are poisoning the minds of the people,” he said.
According to Basharat, the committee members were locked inside the guest house the night before the Sammelan on campus by these protestors demanded the list of people attending the festival.
“Now it will be difficult to hold such Sammelans in the future. This time they objected to me being part of it, next time it will be somebody else. Our organisation should have taken a firm stand, but they gave in to their demands. Soon they will take over the organisation if they continue like this,” said Ahmed, a founder member of this Muslim Marathi movement and also the national vice-president of the literary meet.
“I will continue to write and express my views through my writings and my poetry. Besides this Sammelan there are other platforms for me; although thisSsammelan means much more to me,” he said.
Basharat Ahmed is an author whose popular books include Islami Jihad - satyacha asatyashi nirantar sangharsh and sheshrao more krut , Muslim manacha shodh - Ek chikitsa, both written in Marathi .