The Gujarat Urdu Sahitya Academy has unequivocally rejected budding poet Aqeel Shatir's plea that he did not violate its rules and regulations, and asked him to refund the amount given to him as assistance immediately.
The Ahmedabad-based Urdu poet was served notice on November 15 asking him why the book publishing assistance of Rs. 10,000 should not be recovered from him for remarks against Chief Minister Narendra Modi in his first book of poems Abhi Zinda Hoon Main, (I am Still Alive). Mr. Aqeel had sent his reply on December 1 claiming that the objectionable remarks of another poet were removed from the book before it was placed in the market for sale. Academy registrar Harshad Trivedi in a cryptic three-line letter dated December 24, which Mr. Aqeel received here on Monday, said his “explanation was not accepted.”
Forty-nine-year-old Aqeel, who runs an STD-PCO booth and is also a photo-journalist contributing to Delhi-based weekly Urdu magazine Akhbar-e-Nau, had sought financial assistance from the State-owned Academy for publishing his book. He was granted Rs. 10,000, the maximum allowed to help budding writers, in October 2008.
Damaging Modi's image
Two years later he was slapped with a notice by the Academy for objectionable paragraphs which showed Mr. Modi in a “very poor light” and damaging his image among the people.
The remarks were by Raunaq Afroz Bhiwandi, who wrote an assessment of the book. According to Mr. Aqeel, regardless of what the title might suggest, his poems were not based on the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat. But Raunaq Afroz apparently thought otherwise.
The objectionable paragraph in Mr. Afroz's five-page piece was removed by the writer. But the Academy accused him of duplicity in having given it copies of the book without the remarks and restoring them in the copies put for sale.
In fact, some 80 copies of the book Mr. Aqeel distributed to poets who had gathered for a Mushaira here on the occasion of his book launch, carried the objectionable paragraph.
But the notice, he believes, is a sort of arm-twister as his application under the Right to Information Act questioning the style of functioning of the Academy is pending before the State Commissioner of Information.