Sahitya Akademi editorial “tolls the death knell” for Gujarati writers’ right to freedom of expression


Parul Khakhar, Vishnu Pandia

Counter-view office
In a strongly worded statement, more than 170 cultural figures, activists and academics from Gujarat strongly protested against the “threats” issued against Gujarati writers in the Gujarat Sahitya Academi newspaper “Shabdsrushti” through an anonymous editorial titled “No, this n is not a poem, it is a misuse of a “poem” for anarchy … “
The editorial, according to the statement, seeks to accuse writers seeking to criticize the government’s handling of the pandemic of “anti-national literary Naxal” and “of attempting to create an atmosphere of hostility” towards them. It was allegedly written by the head of Gujarat Sahitya Akademi Vishnu Pandya, a known protégé of Narendra Modi, in response to highly critical poems by Parul Khakhar, from the Saurashtra region.

While a poem by Khakhar, “Shav Vahini Ganga” says, “Saheb, the Ganga carries corpses in your Ramraj…” has gone viral, another, “Tare Bolvu Nahi” (You shouldn’t speak), seeks to echo the alleged attack. on freedom of expression under the Modi government.


Gujarat Sahitya Akademi, whose autonomy was wrested by the government of Gujarat, which then made it a government institution, publishes a newspaper called “Shabdsrushti”. The June 2021 issue of “Shabdsrushti” contains an anonymous writing titled “No, this is not a poem, this is a misuse of a ‘poem’ for anarchy …” on page 89. The necessary obligation to write the name of the author is not honored which should be considered immoral, criminal and dangerous according to government procedures.
It is perfectly legitimate for a writer to write a poem in his name, to express his opinion about it and to criticize it. Criticism, debate and dissent are the strength of a healthy democracy. However, this writing offers a vague criticism “about a Gujarati poem” without naming it. Likewise, without naming the poet, he condescendingly mentions that she has been a recipient of the Akademi in the past.
The anonymous writer makes outrageous statements such as “the poem is bad although the poet is good” and, by such innuendo, attempts to indirectly threaten the Gujarati writers by indicating in an authoritative voice what to write and what they should not write. This is reminiscent of the days of the state of emergency (during the state of emergency in 1975, newspapers and magazines had to be approved by government officials) and is absolutely condemnable. It is hitting the pen with the hammer, sounding the death knell for the right to freedom of expression of Gujarati writers.
In addition, the accusation that this poem has encouraged anti-national “literary naxals” and destructive elements that attempt to create anarchy in the country and are involved in anti-national activities by pulling on the poet’s shoulder is extremely shocking. .

With such accusations, the anonymous writer tries to create an atmosphere of hostility towards writers who engage in creative activity in a democratic manner and become the voice of the contemporary age as well as towards hundreds of thousands of readers. of Gujarati literature who appreciate the writings of these writers. .
In an attempt to gag the glorious literary tradition of Gujarat, this government-controlled institution, which operates under a democratic structure, has opened the floodgates to a practice that goes against the interests of the people and has a dangerous and fascist tendency. which we strongly condemn.
We believe that writing poetry in a democratic tradition, being a guardian of society by writing poetry, debating contemporary issues, criticizing the actions or inaction of those in power through writing, is also an element important to a healthy democracy.

Recalling what the Supreme Court said a few days ago that criticizing the government is not sedition, we call on the editor of “Shabdsrushti”, president of Gujarat Sahitya Akademi and the government of Gujarat to withdraw this writing which is a stain on the Gujarati language and Gujarat.

Click here for signatories


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