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Gujarat literati flutter: State Akademi autonomy curb a Sahitya Parishad poll issue?

Prakash N Shah, Harikrushna Pathak, Harshad Trivedi
By Dankesh Oza*
The 115-year-old Gujarati Sahitya Parishad is in election mode. More than 3,000 life members of the Parishad are set to elect its 52nd president and 40 plus central working committee (CWC) members, which in turn will elect its executive and two vice presidents, six secretaries and a treasurer for the coming three years (from 2021 to 2023).
The literary atmosphere in Gujarat is surcharged, as there are three presidential candidates and more than 81 candidates for CWC. Earlier elections would generally take place by consensus, based on seniority, though there were occasions when there was low-key contest. This time, however, the internet-based social media has flooded voters with controversial posts, WhatsApp messages, even video calls.
Well-known human rights activist and journalist of repute Prakash N Shah (born 1940) has joined the fray with only one major plank: Autonomy to the Gujarat Sahitya Akademi, a state-run literary body, to which the government appoints president, and writers have no say in its functioning. Its autonomy clause was abrogated by the government in 2015-16.
The second candidate is Harikrushna Pathak (born 1938), a silent literary writer of repute, who educates upcoming generation of poets with prosody and rhythmic skills of good poetry.
The third candidate is Harshad Trivedi (born 1958), who has worked for decades with in the Gujarat Sahitya Akademi, editing its literary monthly ‘Subdashrusti’. His editorial proficiency is widely appreciated. He is also an established poet, novelist and short story writer.
Controversy has surrounded Prakash N Shah, as his critics point that he is not a literary person, even though he reached up to becoming vice president of the Parishad. It also pointed out that he has no contribution to any of the creative forms of literature, not even literary criticism.
There is also the view that Prakash N Shah and Harikrushna Pathak are too old. On the other hand, when Gujarat’s literary institutions, including the Parishad, have been inactive for long, a relatively young Harshad Trivedi, free from his previous Akademi job, can now passionately work for the Parishad, making it active and moving.
Parishad voters are spread all over Gujarat, in Mumbai, in Hyderabad, in Kolkata, even abroad. The election is held through postal ballots, which are dispatched by speed post. Counting will be held on October 24, 2020.
Complaints have reached Parishad election officer PV Trivedi, a former IAS bureaucrat, regarding misuse of the Parishad logo in the campaign material and declaration of panels of CWC candidates by Prakash Shah, unheard of in past elections. But Trivedi says his hands are tied, as there is no written code of conduct for Parishad elections, as it wasn’t considered necessary for literary people.
Controversy surrounds Prakash N Shah, as his critics say he has no contribution to any creative literary form, not even literary criticism
The campaign style of all the three contestants has has been quite different. Harikrushna Pathak does not believe in campaigning at all. He is true to the old and traditional style. He relies on voters’ discretion. Harshad Trivedi chose to reach out his voters with an ‘appeal’, sent out as letter to the voters via WhatsApp and email. The letter has names of his hundreds of supporters. He sent out his appeal by courier to those whose WhatsApp or email IDs he does not have. Prakash Shah, on the other hand, chose to campaign on social media with the support of activists and academicians.
In Gujarat, a fortnightly, ‘ Neerikshak’, which is considered a voice of the civil society, is edited by Prakash Shah for the last more than two decades. This fortnightly was founded by such top personalities like Umashanker Joshi, Prof PG Mavalankar, Ishwar Petlikar, Manubhai Pancholi ‘Darshak’ and Yahwant Shukla in 1969.
Dankesh Oza
The Parishad has its own monthly, ‘Parab’, which does not provide platform to its contestants for debate or healthy campaign. ‘Nirikshak’ had been doing this job till now. This time, however, when its editor has chosen to throw his hat in the election ring, Harshad Trivedi, among others, wondered how could the fortnightly, with its editor as a contestant, provide platform for debate.
The Parishad has a very peculiar procedure for electing president. None can declare himself as candidate. A proposal of his or her name with signatures of at least 10 literati-member voters should reach the Parishad. The election officer, nominated for Parishad polls, asks each candidate personally whether he/she is willing to contest.
This time, Madhav Ramanuj, a popular poet, was selected by 10 signatories, but he did not show his willingness to contest. Another reputed poet, Chandrakant Sheth, whose name was also suggested, said he is ready to be a candidate, but only if he is elected unopposed.
Many Parishad members feel that the tradition of electing its office bearers is very well thought out and established and should not be vitiated. However, they suggest, this time there is a lot of cacophony on social media, which not a welcome sign.
Recently, the Parishad’s activities have taken a beating. The present president, Sitanshu Mehta, has remained abroad for most of his term. Meanwhile, the autonomy of the government-run Akademi was abrogated, and this has been made a campaign agenda.
Akademi president, Vishnu Pandya, has objected to this. He, along with the Akademi registrar, have out with a public statement asking voters to choose only those who are genuinely interested in literary activities and not making autonomy of the Akademi an issue.
Meanwhile, columnist-writer Gunvant Shah recently wrote that genuine creative writers must shy away from electioneering, keeping away from literary organisations like the Parishad, and instead concentrate only on their creative writings.
Others have pointed out that such top writers Labhshanker Thakar, Suresh Joshi and Chandrakant Baxi have immensely contributed to Gujarati literature, yet they have never had any truck with any such organisation.
---
*Gujarati writer, former Gujarat government official

Comments

Good article. It shows the reality and nicely describes the current situation.
kartikey shukla said…
Do agree ...Res. Prakashbhai Shah and Res. Harikrushnabhai Pathak are old. But Res Harikrushnabhai is well experienced of administrative work . He is renowned Gujarati literature personality . He can serve and justify his job nicely more perfect manner if he will be elected.
kartikey shukla said…
શ્રી ડંકશભાઇ ના આ લેખમાં જે અગત્યના પાસાનો ઉલ્લેખ નથી એ પાદ-પૂરતિ રૂપે મૂકવાનું ઉચિત માનુ છું
શ્રી હરિકૃષ્ણ ભાઈ ગુજરાતી સાહિત્ય પ્રત્યેક એવોર્ડથી વિભૂષિત થયેલ છે અને તેઓશ્રીની આ યાત્રા કુમાર સુવર્ણચંદ્રક થી શરૂ થઇ હતી. કવિતા વાર્તા બાળ સાહિત્ય નિબંધ ચરિત્ર ચિત્રણ criticism ઉપરાંત તેઓ એક સારા ચિત્રકાર અને ગુજરાતી કાવ્યો પણ સુંદર રીતે ગાઇ શકે છે જેનો સાહિત્ય રુચિ ધરાવતા સુજ્ઞ સભ્યોને પરિચય હશે જ.તેઓશ્રીની પચાસ વરસની સાહિત્ય યાત્રા દરમિયાન તેઓ પરિષદ સાથે સતત સંકળાયેલા અને સક્રિય રહેલા છે અને ઉછરતી પેઢી ના સાહિત્યક્ષેત્રે પ્રેમાળ માર્ગદર્શક રહ્યા છે અને આજની તારીખે પણ આટલી જૈફ ઉંમરે પણ તેઓ કવિઓના માર્ગદર્શક છે એ સ્વીકૃત હકીકત છે. ત્યારે જૈફ ઉંમરે પ્રદાન કરી શકે નહીં એવું કહેવુ ઉચિત નથી. હું પોતે ૧૯૫૫થી સાહિત્ય પરિષદ અને તેની પ્રવૃત્તિઓથી વાકેફ છું અને જૈફ ઉમરે પહોચેલા પ્રમુખોની યાદી ઘણી લાંબી છે. શ્રી કનૈયાલાલ મુનશી, શ્રી ઉમાશંકર જોષી, વિગેરે યાદી લંબાવતા ઘણા નામ ઉમેરી શકાય જે સિત્તેરની આસપાસના જ હતા. આ બાબતમાં ઉંમર વચ્ચે લાવવી તે પરિષદ નું અપમાન કરવા બરાબર છે.
આ લખવા પાછળનો હેતુ સ્પષ્ટતા રૂપે પાદપૂર્તિ નો જ છે. સુજ્ઞ વાચક સભ્યો આ બધાથી સુપરિચિત હોય જ અને તેમને કોઈ જ ભલામણ ની જરૂર નથી એવો મારો નમ્ર અભિપ્રાય છે.
- સનતભાઇ વાય ભટ્ટ

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