New Delhi: It was another facepalm moment for the Sahitya Akademi when Malayalam poet Anwar Ali spoke his mind at the All India Poetry Festival here on the growing intolerance in the country. The day-long festival on Friday was organised jointly by the Sahitya Akademi and the culture ministry of Culture to promote poetry in all the country's 24 recognised languages.
Ali, who read his poem during the evening session of the festival, chose the occasion to voice his concern over growing intolerance in the country and the indifference of the government. He said he was disturbed by the recent happenings and reminded the Akademi of its lineage of Jawaharlal Nehru, its first president.
“I have always been happy and at home whenever I'm invited for the festivals organised by Sahitya Akademi. But this time, like many of the writers who believe in democracy and social justice, I am sad and disturbed. For the very India that writes in various national languages, Akademi should be a home away from home. It’s not an office regulated by government policy or their machinery. We all are members of the ancestry of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the great prose writer and the first ever president of Akademi, not of the other Nehru, the prime minister,” he said.
Taking a potshot at communal forces, the poet said that the country must not allow anyone to hijack cultural institutions.
“I came for this meet not only to read out poetry but to express my anxiety over the communal fanaticism that increases day by day and to remind the communal forces, especially Sangh Parivar and their pro-groups, that the creative psyche of this country must not allow them to hijack the cultural institutions and public platforms of democratic India,” said Ali. However, other poets who participated in the festival chose to keep mum on the issue.
Later, talking to IANS, the poet expressed concern over the political intervention in Akademi and stressed on the need to retain its autonomy. “The Akademi was always free from politics even during the previous BJP regime. Now, I can see that the atmosphere changing,” he said.
He further added that "silence is not golden" when M.M. Kalburgi, an Akademi award winning author was murdered and the communal forces are at work to vitiate the atmosphere. “How can you keep mum when writers are being killed and freedom of expression is gagged? I am deeply disturbed as a writer when a maestro like Ghulam Ali is forced to cancel his programme,” he said.
Ali felt that though returning awards by writers caused a dent on Akademi’s credibility, the resolution condemning the killing of Kalburgi was a face saver.
“Though the resolution came pretty late, it brought some credibility to the institution,” he said.