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Sahitya Akademi 'editorial' death knell for Gujarati writers' right to free expression

Parul Khakhar, Vishnu Pandya
Counterview Desk 
In a strongly-worded statement, more than 170 Gujarat cultural personalities, activists and academics have strongly protested against “threats" issued against Gujarati writers in the Gujarat Sahitya Academi journal “Shabdsrushti” through an anonymous writeup under the titled “No, This Is Not a Poem, It Is Misuse of a ‘Poem’ for Anarchy…”
Supposedly an editorial, published, ironically on page 89 of the journal, says the statement, seeks to accuse the writers seeking to criticise the government handling of the pandemic as “anti-national literary Naxals” and "attempts to create an atmosphere of hostility" towards them. It is said to have been written by Gujarat Sahitya Akademi chief Vishnu Pandya, a known Narendra Modi protege, in response to sharply critical poems by Parul Khakhar, hailing from from the Saurashtra region. 
While one Khakhar's poems, “Shav Vahini Ganga” says, “Saheb, the Ganga carries corpses in your Ramraj…” has gone viral, another one, “Tare Bolvu Nahi” (You Shouldn’t Speak), seeks to echo the alleged attack on free speech under the Modi government.

Text:

Gujarat Sahitya Akademi whose autonomy was wrested by the Gujarat government, which then turned it into a government institution, publishes a journal named "Shabdsrushti". The June 2021 issue of "Shabdsrushti" carries an anonymous piece of writing titled “No, This Is Not a Poem, It Is Misuse of a ‘Poem’ for Anarchy…” on page 89. The necessary obligation of writing the author’s name is not honoured which should be deemed immoral, criminal and dangerous according to government procedures.
It is perfectly legitimate for a writer to write about a specific poem in his or her name, to express views on it and to criticise it. Criticism, debate and dissent are the strength of a healthy democracy. However, this writing offers a vague criticism “about one Gujarati poem” without naming it. Similarly, without naming the poet it mentions patronizingly that she has been a beneficiary of the Akademi in the past.
The anonymous writer makes outrageous statements such as ‘the poem is bad though the poet is good’, and through such insinuations attempts to issue an indirect threat to Gujarati writers indicating in an authoritative voice what they should write and what they should not write. This is reminiscent of the time of the Emergency (during the Emergency in 1975 newspapers and journals had to be approved by government officials) and is absolutely condemnable. This is beating the pen with the hammer, a death knell for the right to freedom of expression of Gujarati writers.
Moreover, the accusation that this poem has encouraged anti national “literary Naxals” and destructive elements that are trying to create anarchy in the country, and are involved in anti-national activities by shooting off the poet’s shoulder is extremely shocking. 
Through such accusations the anonymous writer attempts to create an atmosphere of hostility towards writers who engage in creative activity in a democratic manner and become the voice of contemporary times as well as towards hundreds of thousands of readers of Gujarati literature who appreciate the writings of these writers.
In an attempt to gag the glorious literary tradition of Gujarat this government-controlled institution, which functions in a democratic structure, has opened the floodgates for a practice that goes against the interests of the people and has a dangerous and fascist tendency which we strongly condemn.
We believe that to write poetry in a democratic tradition, to be a custodian of society through writing poetry, to debate contemporary issues, to criticize actions or inaction of those in power through writing, is also an important part of a healthy democracy. 
Recalling what the Supreme Court said a few days ago that to criticize the government is not sedition, we appeal to the editor of "Shabdsrushti", chairperson of Gujarat Sahitya Akademi and the government of Gujarat to withdraw this writing which is a blot on the Gujarati language and Gujarat.
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Click here for signatories

Comments

The fascists and its ANDH-BHAKTS have known only one thing, intimidation tactics to make people being afraid of their lives. Very sad.

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