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Sahitya Akademi to publish satirical poem on Gandhi: Jnanpith winner

‘I find it strange that people find it obscene after two decades’

>Notwithstanding the Supreme Court order stating that the right to free speech and expression is not absolute in the context of attributing obscene language to ‘revered, historical figures’, Jnanpith awardee Bhalchandra Nemade is set to publish the controversial poem Gandhi Mala Bethala (I met Gandhi). Mr. Nemade says he wrote to the poet, Vasant Gurjar, in March and is awaiting a response. His letter dated March 21, a copy of which is with The Hindu, praises Mr. Gurjar’s work and seeks his permission to publish the poem in a proposed volume on Gandhi’s works to be brought out by the Sahitya Akademi, which comes under the Department of Culture.

“The chairman of the Sahitya Akademi has decided to collect selective and important literary works on Mahatma Gandhi from 24 different Indian languages and I am the chief editor for the Marathi literature on Mahatma Gandhi… Please accord your permission for including your poem in the collection to be published by the Sahitya Akademi,” Mr. Nemade wrote.

Gurjar understood Gandhi, says Nemade

In the letter to poet Vasant Gurjar, Jnanpith awardee Bhalchandra Nemade wrote: “In my opinion your poem, Gandhi Mala Bethala is one of the best poems on Mahatma Gandhi so far published in Marathi poetry. Your poem expresses in a unique style the wide social spectrum of Indian society after assassination of the Mahatma by Godse.”

Obscenity charges were levelled against Mr. Gurjar and Devidas Ramachandra Tuljapurkar, who published Gandhi Mala Bethala (I met Gandhi) in 1994 in an in-house banking magazine.

When contacted, Mr. Nemade said, “The poem has been around for more than two decades and I find it strange that people find it obscene after so many years. With due respect to the judiciary, it is my submission that the Supreme Court is wrong. It is my right to write and publish. And I think Gurjar understood Gandhi well.” Elaborating on the poem, Mr. Nemade said it is about Gandhi travelling and his encounters with social realities of the day.

“I suspect it is the poet’s take on celibacy that people are now protesting about. Just as it my right to write, let people protest,” he said.

He said the Akademi would not only publish the poem but will also defend it.

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Printable version | Feb 28, 2020 12:03:26 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/sahitya-akademi-to-publish-satirical-poem-on-gandhi-jnanpith-winner/article7211162.ece

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