Using suspicion as evidence to create controversy

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 08 Jan 2019 10:08:49


Staff Reporter,

The headline states in summary what exactly has happened in case of the latest controversy surrounding the withdrawal of invitation by organisers of 92nd Akhil Bharatiya Marathi Sahitya Sammelan, to noted English language author Nayantara Sahgal.

In the first place, Akhil Bharatiya Marathi Sahitya Mahamandal and the local organizers of the coveted annual Marathi literary meet scheduled to begin in Yavatmal in Vidarbha region just a couple of days later, should have given a deeper thought before finalizing name of the chief guest. And, once the name was finalized, they should not have given so much of credence to some local agricultural activist – who later did a volte face regarding opposition to Sahgal’s name – and a local worker of Maharashtra Navnirman Sena whose leader Raj Thackeray later overruled his objection. However, the organizers buckled under pressure created due to threats of disruption of the event by the local objectors and withdrew invitation to Sahgal. However, what is happening now is an altogether political capitalisation of the entire issue, as is reflected in political targeting by way of using mere suspicion as evidence.

Sahgal expressed suspicion that the text of her speech might have led to withdrawal of invitation to her as ‘political bosses might not have liked it’. Raj Thackeray issued a letter stating that he was not opposed to Sahgal inaugurating the meet, and flayed his own local worker. Within a few hours of the news breaking out that the organisers had withdrawn invitation to Sahgal, her speech in English got translated into Marathi and circulated widely to news channels and web portals and revived ‘intolerance’ debate which previously caught fancy of activist brigade after the new Government came at the Centre in 2014. How could the text of her speech got translated so fast and leaked? No one comes up to answer that question with credence. Soon, some of the self-proclaimed thought leaders of Maharashtra and the country joined the bandwagon and crying hoarse against the Government for mounting pressure on the organisers to withdraw invitation to Sahgal.

Even when the Chief Minister’s office and Cultural Affairs Minister issued statements on Monday that the Government had no role to play in deciding who would inaugurate the literary meet, the self-styled champions of freedom of expression continued with the tirade that there was ‘political motive’ behind withdrawal of invitation to Sahgal. A handful of the editors of media outlets and writers known for their political inclinations also tried to dictate the agenda by appealing to the litterateurs not to attend such a meet. All this was on the basis of ‘suspicion’ that there was some ‘political motive’.

One wonders if this was pre-planned. For, how come the birds of the same feather have flocked together so instantaneously. Interestingly, none of them has flayed equally vocally the local entities – in time -- who opposed to Sahgal’s name and doled out threats to disrupt the coveted meet in the Marathi literary world. Instead, now all the energies are being wasted collectively in portraying the ruling political dispensation as the ‘convict’.

There are suspicions of the other kind too in the minds of the people and intellectuals and writers of Vidarbha. In the recent past, a few years ago, when the Marathi Sahitya Sammelan was finalized to be held in Buldhana district of Vidarbha region, similar controversy on political and religious lines was created purposely and highlighted precisely by the same ilk of motivated intellectuals. As a result, the venue had to be changed and Vidarbha was deprived of hosting the meet. This time also, initially, the local entity calling himself an agricultural activist raised questions on need of spending money on the meet in Yavatmal when farmers were dying.

Everyone sympathises with the cause of farmers. However, one wishes to ask: When farmers’ suicide has become a national phenomenon, why no one asks the same question to various State Governments from West Bengal to Gujarat and Punjab to Kerala? All these states host investors’ meets spending hundreds of crores of rupees, they spend money on elitist literary festivals, they sponsor foreign study tours of those who have access to ‘the system’. Probably, raising the question in these States at any given time would not served the political purpose better than raising it now – just ahead of ensuing Lok Sabha and Maharashtra Legislative Assembly elections.

The fact that political tone has been given to the entire episode only on the basis of suspicion, makes it clear that those acting against the interest of the Marathi literary meet are serving their own political causes instead of the larger cause of Marathi, which is the official language and mother-tongue of Maharashtra. In their blind political affiliations, they are forgetting that instead of staying away from the meet, raising the points constructively on the dais will serve long-term goal of enriching not only Marathi language but also sense and sensibility of Marathi readers.

But, when a particular group or lobby is blinded by political discourse only instead of discussing finer points of literature, quality of writing, emergence of new thought and new writers in literature, one cannot expect such saner thinking, especially when the country’s polity and ecosystem affiliated to it is preparing for the elections.

So, the show of using mere suspicion as evidence to create controversy and hitting political targets will continue in days to come. But, the saner thinking individuals and intellectuals should come forward to isolate the Marathi literary meet from such low-grade high-octane political game, and come up with something positive that will serve the cause of ‘Maay Marathi’ above anything else. Irrespective of attempts of a few to discourage others from attending the meet, may the people with real concern for Marathi turn up in big numbers in Yavatmal for 92nd Akhil Bharatiya Marathi Sahitya Sammelan. May it be a grand success, beyond petty political considerations.