Amid a row over the Maharashtra government’s decision to withdraw an award for the Marathi translation of alleged Maoist ideologue Kobad Ghandy’s memoir, three members of the award selection committee have 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 committee that selected the Marathi translation of Ghandy’s book “Fractured Freedom: A Prison Memoir” for the Late Yashwantrao Chavan Literature Award 2021. However, the government not only withdrew the award, but 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.
In her 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.”
Kulkarni said, “Ghandy’s book is not even banned, still the Maharashtra government backtracked its own decision to award the translated version of it. This kind of treatment by the government will discourage people in the future from being 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 the freedom of expression and am deeply hurt by the state’s decision.”
A Government Resolution (order) issued on Monday stated that the decision of the selection committee had been reversed for “administrative reasons,” and the award, which included a cash prize of Rs 1 lakh, has been withdrawn. The committee too has been scrapped, the GR added.
On Tuesday, Marathi author Anand Karandikar announced he would return his award in protest against the decision. Karandikar, selected for the Late Yashwantrao Chavan Literature Award 2021 under the “general literature” category for his Marathi book titled ‘Vaicharik Ghusalan’, told PTI that although he did not agree with Ghandy’s line of thinking, the latter has all rights to express his views in a democracy and that Lele had merely translated his book.
“I have written a letter to the Maharashtra State Literature and Culture Board informing them that I want to return my award and the money worth Rs 1 lakh,” he said. Karandikar questioned the logic behind the government’s decision to take back Lele’s award, saying a couple of editions of Ghandy’s book are already published and the book is also out for sale physically as well as online.
Meanwhile, amid the row, Maharashtra opposition leader Ajit Pawar on Wednesday said the ruling dispensation was trying to control the fields of literature and culture. He alleged the state government was trying to impose an “undeclared emergency” by scrapping the literary award.
The Maharashtra state government every year distributes awards to writers and translators covering a range of topics. These awards are distributed under the umbrella name Late Yashwantrao Chavan Literature Award. An award in each category is named after some eminent personality for their contribution to society and literature.