Leader of Opposition in the state assembly Mr Ajit Pawar on Wednesday slammed the Shinde Fadnavis government for its decision to cancel the award given to the Marathi translation of communist activist Kobad Ghandy's book Fractured Freedom: Prison Memories and Thoughts. Terming it an undeclared emergency, Mr Pawar claimed that the cancellation of the award was wrong and condemnable saying that the government should not have interfered in the fields like literature, art and sports as they should be free from politics. ‘’This act is fatal to freedom of expression and democracy,’’ he opined.
Mr Pawar’s blistering attack came when several awardees rejected the literary award announced by the state government to protest its move while Mr Laxmikant Deshmukh, who is the former president of literary conference, resigned from the state committee on language improvement.
M Pawar said that the state government's awards for best literary work for the year 2021 was announced on December 6, 2022. A total of 33 awardees were announced. ‘’Tarkatirth LaxmanShastri Joshi Award for Translated Literature was announced to Anagha Lele for her translation of Kobad Ghandy’s book. In the 6 days after the announcement, some events took place behind the scenes and on December 12 the state government issued a government resolution and dissolved the Literature Award Selection Committee and also cancelled the award announced to Anagha Lele,’’ he noted and reiterated that the government’s action was an unnecessary interference in the field of literature.
‘’We held positions in the government earlier for many years before but did not try to interfere in the field of literature, art. The decisions should be left to the experts from that field. It is heard that the incident of cancelling the awards has already happened during the Emergency which was a declared emergency. The rules of the day had to pay the price. The present government in the state has tried to impose an undeclared Emergency by cancelling the award which is highly condemnable,’’ observed Mr Pawar.
‘’This is not the first intervention of this government in the literature. The selection of veteran editor Suresh Dwadshiwar as the president of the Akhil Bharatiya Marathi Sahitya Sammelan to be held in Wardha was almost certain. But fearing that his speech would embarrass the government, elements in the government put pressure on the organizers and blocked his selection. In this way this government is trying to control the literary and cultural field,’’ claimed Mr Pawar.
However, Mr Pawar expressed his belief that the literature in Maharashtra is fearless and will not succumb to such pressure. The decision to reject the award by Sharad Baviskar and Anand Karandikar is to condemn the government’s decision without bowing to its pressure. Veteran writer Pragya Daya Pawar, and poetess Neerja have submitted their resignations as members of Sahitya Sanskriti Mandal.
He recalled that after the incident of mob lynching of Akhlakh in Dadri in the year 2015, the movement to return the award started across the country. The same is being repeated in Maharashtra. He also expressed regret that this is happening in a progressive state like Maharashtra where the late Yashwantrao Chavan laid the cultural foundation.
Meanwhile, the minister for Marathi Language Mr Deepak Kesarkar defended the cancellation of an award to Ms Lele saying that the decision was taken after a probe. He said that the expert committee had not discussed nor brought to the government’s notice over the selection of the book. Mr Kesarkar clarified that there is no ban on Fractured Freedom but noted that Maharashtra has been the first state to crack down on Naxalism. However, he mentioned that the glorification of Naxalism cannot happen in Maharashtra.
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