DAYS after the Goa government declared a state literature and culture award for two years as “null and void”, Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar on Friday tried to distance his government from the controversy, saying that the awards were not cancelled because Dalit writer Vishnu Wagh’s controversial anthology, Sudhir Sukta, was among those shortlisted, but after a probe found conflict of interest in the selection procedure. He also emphasised that the government has no role in the FIR filed against Wagh.
Not giving details of the “substantial conflict of interest” found, Parrikar said, “The full process has been declared null and void. Even in the Cabinet, when a conflict of interest came up on five or six occasions, I did not stay present. You (jury members with apparent conflict of interest) should have either stayed absent or should not have judged.”
On August 15, a jury member had prematurely leaked the information that Wagh had been shortlisted in the poetry category for a state award by Goa Konkani Akademi (GKA), an autonomous institution funded by the state to promote Konkani. Following this, and the controversy the select leaked verses created, the government scrapped all the awards for two consecutive years, The Indian Express had reported on October 17.
Wagh’s poetry, written in everyday Konkani, describes discrimination faced by the Dalit community at the hands of Gaud Saraswat Brahmins.
On Friday, Parrikar accused a section of the media of trying to give the issue a “different colour”.
About the FIR, he said, “It has nothing to do with the government, although some media at the national level tried to hint as if the government has done something…. There is a decision of the Supreme Court (that) if any prima facie cognizance is made out that legal violation has taken place, (then FIR is registered)… An FIR cannot be avoided…. Based on that, the police on their own took a decision. I do not interfere with the (work of) investigating officer.” The FIR was registered on October 18 on a complaint by activist Auda Viegas, who found some of Wagh’s verses “obscene”.
A media release from the Directorate of Information and Publicity said, “The government has taken the decision to declare Goa Konkani Akademi Literacy awards and Bhasha Seva Puraskar for 2015 and 2016 as null and void…. It was observed that employees of Goa Konkani Akademi were in the selection committee for shortlisting of books, and the same employees had recommended their own books for awards, thus showing a conflict of interest.”