Muslim writers ‘ignored’ at Kannada literary fest; parallel event by rebel writers today
A section of Kannada writers have alleged that Muslim writers had an unfair representation at the ongoing 86th Akhila Bharathiya Kannada Sahitya Sammelana organized by the Kannada Sahitya Parishath and have organized an alternate event as a mark of protest.
The allegations against the Kannada Sahitya Parishath of ignoring Muslim writers and poets at the 86th Akhila Bharathiya Kannada Sahitya Sammelana (All India Kannada Literature Conference) seems to have driven a wedge in the Kannada literary circle. A section of Left-leaning writers including seniors, miffed by the Kannada Sahitya Parishath’s gesture of not giving fair representation to Muslim litterateurs at the event, have planned to organize an alternative literary meet, the Jana Sahitya Sammelana, in Bengaluru on Sunday (January 8 ).
Writers allege that the conference which kicked off on Friday (January 6) exhibited a clear divide between the Right and the Left, and Muslim writers barring one or two unfamiliar faces were purposefully not invited to the event even though the state has several noted writers from the community.
Joshi changed character of literary society, allege writers
The Kannada Sahitya Parishath, an autonomous body under the state government, was started in 1915 under the patronage of Mysuru’s Diwan, M Vishweshwaraiah and has a history of more than a century. Like any other organization, the Sahitya Parishath also had members with varying opinions. However, the same never created any rift between them and preference was given to all streams of writers and thinkers. However, many have alleged that the tone and functioning of the organization has undergone a sea change after Mahesh Joshi became its president.
Writers allege that the composition of the programs at the literary conference is proof that the basic norms of the literary society have been pushed to the backburner while accusing Joshi of blindly catering to the interest of a particular political party.
There is no instance of the council’s autonomous nature being compromised even though it receives government funding. When Chandrasekhara Patil was the president of the Sahitya Parishath, he displayed the courage to ignore the interference of influential deputy chief ministers of the then government in decisions of the literary society and upheld the autonomy of the parishath.
“Mahesh has stooped to the level of brazenly displaying his post of decoration by handing over the platform of Sahitya Sammelana to politicians, and officers and disregarding the autonomous heritage of the Parishath,” said senior writer Chandrakanth Vaddu.
Bellairu Mohammed Haneef, senior journalist and renowned writer, said that the name of not a single Muslim author was considered for the panel list in the nine main stage programs at the conference.
“Byari (a Dravidian language spoken by the Muslim communities in Karnataka) has no representation in linguistic diversity conferences. What do you say to this? Isn’t this discrimination?” he said.
Poet Muneer Katipalla expressed his concerns on the issue through his Kannada poem which encompassed all the atrocities faced by Muslims in the country – from the Hindutva brigade’s call to boycott halal products, to now boycotting Muslim writers from the state’s literature festival.
Where are the women?
Dr HL Pushpa, president of the Karnataka Women Writers Association, in her statement said “If you read the entire invitation letter, you will find only a handful of women who have achieved in Kannada literature. So many talented writers are writing in women’s literature, including newcomers and veterans. Did Kannada Sahitya Parishath forget the idea of including women writers who are writing in large numbers?”
She asked if women in the eyes of the literary body’s president are only fit to carry ‘kumbhas’ in processions and be confined to being decorative “objects” at the conference. “Individually everyone has and should have ideological differences. But after taking the leadership of an organization one has to put personal opinion aside and work,” she said, taking a dig at Joshi.
‘An organ of the government’
Writers also allege that the Sahitya Parishath, which has lost the community’s vision to give representation to both senior and junior writers at conferences, is of late displaying an autocratic attitude of keeping all the power in the hands of one person.
“The Parishath is a representative body of the Kannadigas and has never functioned as a subordinate body of the government. But the present managing committee looks as if it is a unit of the political party headed by the current government,” said Vaddu, who was the former chairman of the Sahitya Parishath and a former director of Doordarshan.
Expressing displeasure over the alleged non-inclusion of Muslim writers at the conference, Vaddu said it was “sahitya sammelan” (literary conference) and not a “dharm sammelan.”
He, however, objected to the decision by a section of protesting writers to hold an alternative Jana Sahitya Sammelana.
What is Joshi’s defense?
Joshi, the literary body’s president has accused Dr. Purushottama Bilimale, a former professor at Jawaharlal University of raking up a controversy and organizing a separate event only because the literary conference was not organized as per his plan.
“Thinker Purushothama Bilimale asked me if the responsibility to organize the dais for the 86th All India Sahitya Conference should be given to the person he suggested. We did not do that and Bilimale is now ready to hold parallel Kannada Sammelana,” Joshi alleged.
Responding to criticism against him of giving a communal color to the event, Joshi said the conference cannot be called a “dharm sammelan” only because Muslims haven’t got a chance and is indeed a sahitya sammelan as the only criterion to participate is expertise in Kannada literature. “Such people (calling it a dharm sammelan) are destroying Kannada’s identity in the name of caste and religion,” he said.
Dr Bilimale, whom Joshi has accused of engineering the feud in the literary society, in his defense said the former makes defamatory allegations against others as he does not know how to answer questions raised by writers like him.
“I indeed expressed my displeasure with the working methods of the Parishath. I agree with many people that all classes did not get proper representation at the Haveri conference. He invited me to the Haveri conference. I said that I will not come for my reasons. There was no need for him to make so many accusations. Joshi, who does not know how to answer the questions raised by me and many like me about the Parishath, has personally made defamatory allegations,” Bilimale said.
The Jana Sahitya Sammelana is slated to be held on Sunday at Santa Shishunala Sharif and Guru Govinda Bhatta’s hall of alumni association premises, in Bangalore. Writer Banu Mushtaq will preside over the event and Dr Bilimale will deliver the speech as chief guest. Prof S Japhet, Janagere Venkataramaiah, Jenny (Janardhan), Agni Sridhar, Akkai Padmashali, Vaddagere Nagarajaiah, and Banjagere Jayaprakash are expected to participate in the event. Muslim, women and other progressive writers are also expected to participate in numbers.