Skip to main content

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.
---
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.

TRENDING

Ganga world's second most polluted river, Modi's Varanasi tops microplastics pollution

By Rajiv Shah  Will the new report by well-known elite NGO Toxics Link create a ripple in the powerful corridors of Delhi? Titled “Quantitative analysis of microplastics along River Ganga”, forwarded to Counterview, doesn’t just say that Ganga is the second most polluted river in the world, next only to Yangtze (China). It goes ahead to do a comparison of microplastics pollution in three cities shows Varanasi – the Lok Sabha constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi – is more polluted compared to Kanpur and Haridwar.

Madhya Pradesh tops India's 145 instances of 'anti-Christian atrocities' this year

Counterview Desk  A report prepared by the Religious Liberty Commission of the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI), founded in 1951 as the national alliance of evangelical Christians of the Protestant denomination, in its just-released report, “Hate and Targeted Violence against Christians in India: Half Yearly Report 2021”, has said that an analysis of 145 cases of violence it has documented against Christians, mainly by non-state actors, “stems from an environment of targeted hate.”

Demolition drive: Why aren't high-end hotels, farmhouses treated same way as Khorigaon?

By Our Representative A public hearing, sponsored by the civil rights group National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) to hear the affected citizens of Khorigaon, off Faridabad, Delhi NCR, has seen local people complaining how their houses are being demolished even as the entire area was converted into a prison through heavy police deployment.

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.

Meaningful? Punjab govt's debt waiver offer for agricultural workers, landless farmers

By Dr Gian Singh*    On July 14, 2021, the Punjab government announced that it would hold a state level function on August 20 to waive the debt of agricultural labourers and landless farmers(pure tenants) of Punjab to the tune of Rs 590 crore. Prior to the 2017 elections, the Congress party had promised in its election manifesto and public speeches that the Punjab government would waive all the institutional and non-institutional debt of farmers and agricultural labourers of Punjab.

How real is Mamata challenge to Modi? Preparing for 2024 'khela hobey' moment

By Prof Ujjwal K Chowdhury*  Third time elected West Bengal Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee is on a whirlwind tour of Delhi, meeting everyone who matters within and beyond the government, the Prime Minister, the President, some Cabinet ministers, Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, several other opposition leaders, et al.

How BSF, police, court turned Bangladeshi woman slave victim into accused in crime

Counterview Desk  Civil rights leader Kirity Roy has strongly objected to the manner in which the Border Security Force (BSF) , the police and the judiciary in West Bengal have treated a 35 years old Bangladeshi woman victim of human trafficking, who was subjected to sexual exploitation for 15 long years, has been declared guilty of violating the Foreigners Act, violating all human rights norms.

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".

Pro-corporate? New GoI circular 'blatant attempt' to control Adivasi lives, livelihoods

By Hemant Das*  The Indian Community Activists Network (ICAN) condemns the anti-forest dwellers circular jointly issued by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) and the (Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA), Government of India (GoI) on July 6. 

Covid impact on menstrual cycles? Young girls 'relapsing' back to unhygienic old-cloth rags

By Dr Sudeshna Roy*  Covid-19 pandemic has gripped the world in health and economic shock. Combating this public health crisis has diverted development resources earmarked for adolescents and the youth. India; having world’s second largest population; 1.38 crores as per UN mid-year 2020 estimation, also shelters the largest adolescents and young adult population, which at 243 million constitute 20% of the world’s 1.2 billion adolescent population.