New Delhi: Over 160 eminent personalities from Gujarat, including authors, writers, academics, artistes and social activists have demanded withdrawal of an article published in Gujarat Sahitya Akademi’s magazine, Shabdsrushti, titled “No, This Is Not a Poem, It Is Misuse of a ‘Poem’ for Anarchy…”
The article, which is critical of the poem “Shav Vahini Ganga” that went viral during the second wave of COVID-19 when corpses were found floating in rivers, has referred to all those praising the poem as “literary Naxals.” The poem, written by Amreli-based Parul Khakhar and posted on her Faccebook page, has since been translated into many languages.
A joint statement issued by the eminent personalities said: “We believe that to write poetry in a democratic tradition, to be a custodian of society through writing poetry, to debate contemporary issues, to criticize actions or inaction of those in power through writing, is also an important part of a healthy democracy. Recalling what the Supreme Court said a few days ago that to criticize the government is not sedition, we appeal to the editor of Shabdsrushti, chairperson of Gujarat Sahitya Akademi and the government of Gujarat to withdraw this writing which is a blot on the Gujarati language and Gujarat.”
Accusing those who praised the poem of “creating anarchy”, the editorial in the June edition of the magazine, which did not mention the poem or the poet’s name read: “The said poem has been used as a shoulder to fire from by such elements who have started a conspiracy, whose commitment is not to India but to something else, who are leftist, so called liberals to whom nobody pays any attention, such people want to quickly spread chaos in India and create anarchy out of it, ” according to Indian Express.
Read the full statement below:
Statement by writers and readers of Gujarati literature about threats issued against them in the journal Shabdsrushti:
Gujarat Sahitya Akademi whose autonomy was wrested by the Gujarat government, which then turned it into a government institution, publishes a journal named Shabdsrushti. The June 2021 issue of Shabdsrushti carries an anonymous piece of writing titled “No, This Is Not a Poem, It Is Misuse of a ‘Poem’ for Anarchy…” on page 89. The necessary obligation of writing the author’s name is not honoured which should be deemed immoral, criminal and dangerous according to government procedures.
It is perfectly legitimate for a writer to write about a specific poem in his or her name, to express views on it and to criticise it. Criticism, debate and dissent are the strength of a healthy democracy. However, this writing offers a vague criticism “about one Gujarati poem” without naming it. Similarly, without naming the poet it mentions patronizingly that she has been a beneficiary of the Akademi in the past.
The anonymous writer makes outrageous statements such as ‘the poem is bad though the poet is good’, and through such insinuations attempts to issue an indirect threat to Gujarati writers indicating in an authoritative voice what they should write and what they should not write. This is reminiscent of the time of The Emergency (During the Emergency in 1975 newspapers and journals had to be approved by government officials) and is absolutely condemnable. This is beating the pen with the hammer, a death knell for the right to freedom of expression of Gujarati writers.
Moreover, the accusation that this poem has encouraged anti national “literary Naxals” and destructive elements that are trying to create anarchy in the country, and are involved in anti-national activities by shooting off the poet’s shoulder is extremely shocking. Through such accusations the anonymous writer attempts to create an atmosphere of hostility towards writers who engage in creative activity in a democratic manner and become the voice of contemporary times 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 functions in a democratic structure, has opened the floodgates for a practice that goes against the interests of the people and has a dangerous and fascist tendency which we strongly condemn.
We believe that to write poetry in a democratic tradition, to be a custodian of society through writing poetry, to debate contemporary issues, to criticize actions or inaction of those in power through writing, is also an important part of a healthy democracy. Recalling what the Supreme Court said a few days ago that to criticize the government is not sedition, we appeal to the editor of Shabdsrushti, chairperson of Gujarat Sahitya Akademi and the government of Gujarat to withdraw this writing which is a blot on the Gujarati language and Gujarat.
Aatish Indrekar Chhara, Abhijit Joshi, Abhijit Vyas, Aditi Desai, Amit Dave, Amita Shah, Amitabh Madia, Amrit Gangar, Anand Mazgaonkar, Anand Pandya, Anandvardhan Yagnik, Anil Joshi, Babu Suthar, Barin Mehta, Bhanubhai Purohit, Bharat Mehta, Bhargav Oza, Bhavana Ramrakhyani, Bhavik Raja, Bina Jadav, Bindu Prasad, Bipin Patel, Bipin Shroff, Chandu Maheriya, Chinar Shah, Dakxin Chhara, Dankesh Oza, Dev Desai, Dilip Dholakia, Dipak Doshi, Dipti Joshi, Divyasha Doshi, Diwan Thakor, Dwarikanath Rath, Francis Parmar, Gala Joshi, Gargeya Trivedi, Gaurang Jani, Ghanshyam Shah, Gulammohammed Sheikh, Hajibhai Baadi, Hanif Lakdawala, Harish Brahmbhatt, Harish Mangalam, Hemant Shah, Hemantkumar Shah, Himanshi Shelat, Hiren Gandhi, Ila Joshi, Iliyas Shaikh, Indira Hirway, Ishwarsinh Chauhan, Jagdish Patel, Jagrut Gadit, Jatin Sheth, Jayanti Patel, Jayesh Dudhrejiya, Jayshree Soni, Jharna Pathak, Jignesh Mevani, Joseph Mecwan, Jyoti Bhatt, Kabir Thakore, Kalpana Sutariya, Kalpesh Dalal, Kamal Vora, Kamlesh Oza, Kanji Patel, Kartar Sinh, Kaushik Amin, Kaushik Mehta, Ketan Rupera, Dr. Kiran Chauhan, Kiran Trivedi, Kishor Goud, Kusum Dhabi, Kusum Popat, Lalubha Chauhan, Madhavi Desai, Madhubhai Bhavsar, Madhusudan Vyas, Mahashweta Jani, Mahesh Yagnik, Mallika Sarabhai, Manhar Oza, Manilal Gala, Manishi Jani, Manjari Meghani, Meenakshi Joshi, Mehboob Desai, Mehul Devkala, Mehul Manguben, Miki Desai, MInal Dave, Mohan Trivedi, Nafisa Barot, Natubhai Nimbark, Natubhai Parmar, Natwar Gandhi, Neha Raval, Neha Shah, Nikhil Gandhi, Nirjhari Sinha, Pallavi Gandhi, Pancham Shukla, Pankti Desai, Panna Erasmus, Panna Naik, Parth Trivedi, Persis Ginwalla, Prabodh Parikh, Prafull Raval, Prakash N. Shah, Prasad Chako, Pratishtha Pandya, Pravin Pandya, Preety Sengupta, Raja Pathak, Raman Soni, Rajesh Thakar, Rajni Dave, Raju Patel, Ramesh Bapodara, Ramesh Oza, Ramesh Savani, Ramsagar Parihar, Reeti Shah, Rohit Prajapati, Ruchir Joshi, Rupa Mehta, Rupali Burke, Ruta Shah, Sahil Parmar, Salil Tripathi, Samir Bhatt, Samiksha Trivedi, Sandhya Bhatt, Sanjay Bhave, Sanjay Chhel, Sanjeev Shah, Saroop Dhruv, Saumya Balsari, Sharifa Vijaliwala, Sheba George, Shefali Balsari Shah, Sidhdharth Gujarati, Subhash Joshi, Sudhir Chandra, Sukhdev Patel, Suman Shah, Svati Joshi, Swati Desai, Swati Goswami, Takhubhai Saandsur, Tanmay Timir, Timir Amin, Urvish Kothari, Utpala Desai, Uttam Parmar, Vaibhav Kothari, Vajesinh Parghi, Varsha Ganguly, Veena Pandya, Vijay Mehta, Vipool Kalyani, Yagnesh Dave, Yashwant Mehta, Yoseph Macwan, Zakia Soman