Skip to main content

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

TRENDING

Communal rhetoric? Hindutva preached by RSS-BJP is 'monolithic', not Hinduism

By Prem Verma*  I am a devout Hindu but not a believer of RSS Hindutva form of Hinduism which brings about hatred of other religions. My Hindu religion has not taught me to look down on other religions and neither has it instilled in me to go about converting others to my religion because my religion is superior.

Gross 'injustice' to children: Rs 5000 cr cut in education budget; 15 lakh schools shut down

Counterview Desk  More than 100 dignitaries, including educationists, academia, social activists, teachers’ union, civil society organisations (CSOs), various networks and people working on child rights, in a letter to Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman have sought reversal of reduction in allocation for education in the Union Budget 2021-22, even as demanding substantial increase in it.

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

India sees 62 journo deaths, 4th highest, amidst pandemic: Swiss media rights body

By Our Representative The Switzerland-based media rights body Press Emblem Campaign (PEC) has noted that India is the fourth most affected country as far as mediapersons’ death on account of Covid-19 is concerned. According to Blaise Lempen, secretary-general of PEC, the global tally of casualties among media persons in the Covid-19 pandemic has reached 1,036 journalists in 73 countries till date.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

RSS love for 'killer' Myanmar junta behind Indian military presence at Tatmadaw Day?

By Shamsul Islam*  If a shameful act means an action which is criminal and nauseating, it would be an understatement to describe the attitude of the present RSS-BJP rulers of India towards the demolition of democracy and large-scale killing of the people of Myanmar by the military ( tatmadaw ) junta which took power through a coup on February 1, 2021 after renegading the election results in which the party of Aung San Suu Kyi, National League for Democracy, was a clear winner.

Chhattisgarh’s Apra riverfront imitates Sabarmati: 'Devaluing' water, environment

Sabarmati riverfront By Mansee Bal Bhargava*  This year’s #WorldWaterDay (March 22) focus was on ‘Valuing Water’. My school friend, Pragati Tiwari from Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh, called that day knowing my interest in water matters. We were remembering our childhood days as how we used to play on the banks and the bed of the Arpa Nadi (River) during the summer holidays and as how the river would swell like Anaconda to flow happily during the monsoon.

Bihar massacre on Holi day: Brahminical, casteist mindset behind 'uneasy' silence

Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*  Several people were killed in Bihar amidst Holi festivities, but not much response has come in from the media. The silence of the government and the society as a whole is also appalling. We seek to romanticise these festivals, yet we forget that every year they take so many lives. This despite the fact that Holi appears to be the best time for 'avenging things'.

India's draft migrants policy: Whither concern on job restrictions imposed by states?

By Anil Kumar*  India’s Niti Aayog has prepared a Draft Migration Policy. The draft policy acknowledges migration as an integral part of development, and it calls for positive government interventions that facilitate internal migration. With a rights-based solution to migration, the draft states that the policy should “enhance the agency and capability of the community and thereby remove aspects that come in the way of an individual’s own natural ability to thrive”.

Gujarat religious freedom amendment bill 'pursues' votebank politics, is anti-minority

Gujarat home minister Pradeepsinh Jadeja  By Our Representative  A Gujarat-based minority rights organisation, taking strong exception to the state assembly last week passing the Gujarat Religious Freedom (Amendment) Bill, 2021, has asserted that the proposed law “is completely unconstitutional”, even as asking the Gujarat governor to give his accent to it.