Before Maharashtra withdrew award, 2 bodies ‘with RSS links’ objected to Kobad Ghandy memoir

The move has triggered disquiet within academic and literary circles.

ByPrateek Goyal
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Before Maharashtra withdrew award, 2 bodies ‘with RSS links’ objected to Kobad Ghandy memoir
Shambhavi Thakur
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“The job of the scrutiny committee is to verify the applications…and then forward them to the award committee. The scrutiny committee checks them on technical grounds for eligibility…the committee cannot recommend any book for the award. However, when we came to know later that an award had been given to the book, I and other members of Akhil Bhartiya Sahitya Parishad collectively decided to oppose it and wrote to the ministry to withdraw the award,” Pathak said.

It was the same day that Pathak wrote to the government that Deepak Kesarkar, Maharashtra’s minister of education and Marathi language, announced that the government will probe how the translation was awarded. Three days later, the government withdrew the award and scrapped the selection committee, with the move triggering disquiet in literary circles, and several writers deciding to return their awards.

Sadanand More, author and chairperson of the Maharashtra literature and culture board, said, “The award has been withdrawn by the government because it believes that particular book justifies or glorifies Naxal movement. The scrutiny committee which qualified and forwarded the book to the award committee later wrote to the Marathi ministry headed by minister Kesarkar to withdraw the award.”

Meanwhile, author and former IAS officer Laxmikant Deshmukh on Wednesday announced his decision to step down as chairman of the language advisory committee in a letter to Maharashtra minister Deepak Kesarkar. Four members of the award selection panel also quit, including authors Dr Pradnya Daya Pawar, Neeraja, and Heramb Kulkarni and Sadhana editor Vinod Shirsath. And Marathi authors Anand Karandikar and Sharad Bawiskar have announced to return their awards in protest.

Writers Suhas Palshikar, Vivek Ghotale and Ganesh Chandanshive announced separately on Thursday that they were quitting the panel which advises the government on policies for promoting Marathi.

Anand Karandikar, who had received an award for his book Vaicharik Ghusulan, said, “First of all that book doesn’t glorify Naxalism, and secondly, the award was for translation. There was a government-appointed committee of experts which chose the book…the minister has no business declaring his own authority and withdrawing the prize. This is against freedom of expression, freedom of writing, and should not be tolerated.”

Ghandy was cleared of all terror charges in June 2016 and was released on bail in October 2019. He had released the book over an year after he came out of prison. Watch this session moderated by Abhinandan Sekhri to hear the activist talk about the memoir, which details his long incarceration, his fellow prisoners, and why he chose the path of activism instead of corporate finance.

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