Chairman of the Maharashtra government's Marathi language committee and four members of the literary board have resigned in protest against the State dispensation's "one-sided" decision to withdraw an award for the Marathi translation of alleged Maoist ideologue Kobad Ghandy's memoir.
A controversy has erupted after the government on Monday withdrew the Late Yashwantrao Chavan Literature Award 2021 announced for the Marathi translation of Ghandy's book "Fractured Freedom: A Prison Memoir". The government also scrapped the award selection committee.
On December 6, the government's Marathi language department had announced the award to Anagha Lele for her translation of Ghandy's book. But the decision came in for criticism on social media because of Ghandy's alleged Maoist links.
Author and chairman of the State government's Language Advisory Committee, Laxmikant Deshmukh, on Wednesday announced that he was stepping down from his post in protest against the way the government withdrew the award announced for the Marathi translation of Ghandy's memoir.
Mr. Deshmukh in his letter addressed to Minister for Marathi language Deepak Kesarkar said, "Maharashtra had never witnessed political interference in literary awards, except in 1981 when Vinay Hardikar's book was similarly rejected by the then State government that later faced severe backlash. This government also took a one-sided decision and as a protest I am quitting from the post of chairman of the Language Advisory Committee of the state government."
"Ghandy' book does not sympathise or promote violence of Naxalism, still the state government took a one-sided decision," Mr. Deshmukh said.
Mr. Deshmukh, a former IAS officer from the Maharashtra cadre, was earlier the chairman of All India Marathi Literary Convention.
Three members of the award selection committee on Tuesday resigned from the State Literature and Culture Board citing "insult of democratic procedures". The three authors - Dr. Pradnya Daya Pawar, Neeraja and Heramb Kulkarni - were also members of the award selection committee that was scrapped by the government.
Another member of the board, Vinod Shirsath, also tendered his resignation as a mark of protest. Mr. Shirsath is also the editor of 'Sadhana', a Marathi weekly.
In a statement, Dr. Pawar said, "The Maharashtra government's one-sided decision to scrap the selection committee insults the democratic procedures. I have decided to resign as a member of the Maharashtra State Literature and Culture Board."
Mr. Kulkarni said, "Ghandy's book is not even banned, still the Maharashtra government back-tracked its own decision to award the translated version of it. This kind of treatment by the government will discourage people in future to be part of such processes. If the board is not going to support us, then I better quit. Please accept my resignation."
Neeraja cited a similar reason. "If the board is not standing behind us and extending its support, then it is better that I quit as its member. I believe in freedom of expression and am deeply hurt by the state's decision."
A Government Resolution (order) issued on Monday had stated that the decision of the selection committee had been reversed for "administrative reasons", and the award, which included a cash prize of Rs one lakh, has been withdrawn. The committee too has been scrapped, the GR added.
Senior NCP leader Pawar hits out
Maharashtra Leader of Opposition and senior NCP leader Ajit Pawar hits out at the Shinde-Fadnavis govt.’s “interference” in fields of art and literature. Mr. Pawa said the decision to withdraw an award for the Marathi translation of alleged Maoist ideologue Kobad Ghandy’s memoir smacks of an “undeclared emergency”.
The State govt.’s dissolution of the Literature Award Selection Committee and its act of cancelling the award announced to Anagha Lele for her translation of Ghandhy’s memoir is “wrong, condemnable and fatal to freedom of expression and democracy,” said Mr. Pawar.
( With inputs from PTI)