Pune: Was noted author Nayantara Sahgal's litfest invitation cancelled under political pressure

Updated: Jan 07, 2019, 08:36 IST | Chaitraly Deshmukh

Noted author was to inaugurate the 92nd Marathi literary conference at Yavatmal next week

Pune: Was noted author Nayantara Sahgal's litfest invitation cancelled under political pressure
Nayantara Sahgal

It seems the Akhil Bharatiya Marathi Sahitya Sammelan is always mired in controversy. This year, the organisers, who invited noted author Nayantara Sahgal to inaugurate the 92nd sammelan, have cancelled the invitation. The Marathi literary conference is to be held from January 11 to January 13 at Yavatmal.

Sahgal was supposed to inaugurate the sammelan in the presence of Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. Noted author Aruna Dhere is to preside over the event. Controversies have always raged around the sahitya sammelan, be they over caste issues or the election of its presidents, their speeches, and even the venues for the conference. Known for her views and straightforwardly airing them, Sahgal had received a Sahitya Akademi award in 1986 for her book, 'Rich Like Us,' which she returned after the murders of rational thinkers — anti-superstition crusader Narendra Dabholkar, Comrade Govind Pansare and MM Kalburgi.

The Pune unit of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena Pune (MNS) had earlier protested the choice of Sahgal to inaugurate the sammelan, as writes in English, saying a Marathi person should have the honour. This, despite the fact, that an author writing in another language has always been invited to inaugurate the sammelan. However, the reception committee's Ramakant Kolte said the organisers took cognisance of the threat given by a political outfit, and withdrew the invitation. "We have sent her a letter cancelling the invitation," Kolte said.

Shripad Joshi, president of the Akhil Bhartiya Marathi Sahitya Sammelan Mahamandal, claimed he has no clue about the communication to Sahgal and refused to talk on it.
Was family link the trigger? However, another organiser who did not wish to be named, said, "The Maharashtra government provides funds for the sahitya sammelan. Sahgal is known for her straightforward views. It seemed that her speech, which was sent to the mahamandal, could trigger anti-government sentiments. It also seemed that if she participated in the sammelan, her views might trigger violence and some issues involving the government might also be spoken about. There was also her family background (she is Jawaharlal Nehru's niece), and the fact that Yavatmal is close to Nagpur, where the chief minister hails from."

Sahgal said the organisers know who she is, and must have known her views and, of course, her speech. She said, "I checked my email on Sunday and saw my name was cancelled. It was sent to me on Saturday night. I don't know how to react. Before they planned to invite me they were aware of my perspectives. So how can they turn me down now? I think it is due to political pressure. But such an act under pressure will neither stop me nor any rational thinkers and curb our freedom of speech and expression."

Inputs from agencies

Who is she?
Nayantara Sahgal was born in 1927. She is the daughter of Vijayalakshmi Pandit, the sister of Jawaharlal Nehru. She received a Sahitya Akademi award for her 'Rich Like Us' in 1986. She has also written, 'The Freedom Movement in India,' and 'Indira Gandhi, Her Road to Power'.

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