Mumbai: Leading Marathi poet Yashwant Manohar has refused to accept a ‘lifetime achievement award’ — the highest literary award given by the Vidarbha Sahitya Sangh (VSS), as the organisation performed 'Saraswati Puja' and garlanded the portrait on stage.
In a letter to the VSS, Manohar said that the portrait of the goddess was a “symbol of the exploitation that barred women and shudras from education and knowledge. I don’t approve of religion in literary programmes,’’ he noted.
‘‘For the sake of an award, I can't toss away my lifelong thoughts, my writing and my values, so I had to decline it,’’ said Manohar.
Manohar said, ‘‘My understanding was that the Vidarbha Sahitya Sangha would know my role as a writer and my thoughts. I was told that there would be an image of Goddess Saraswati. I could not accept the award by negating my values, so I politely declined it.’’
‘‘If someone from the Vidarbha Sahitya Sangh had contacted me over the last few days, we could have found a way out, but it did not happen," claimed Manohar. He said he was aware of the contribution of Savitribai Phule and many others in the field of women's education and for the emancipation of women. ‘’You tell me the contribution of Saraswati in this matter. If you convince me, I will think about my role,’’ Manohar opined.
Manohar said he would request all writers, poets, artists, politicians and the Government of Maharashtra to consider whether it would be possible to keep a photo of Savitribai Phule and a copy of the Constitution, instead of Goddess Saraswati and the traditional prayer during such literary, government and public events.