Yet another writer has returned the award given by the Gujarati Sahitya Akademi, to protest the change in the Academy’s constitution by the state government and elevation of a retired bureaucrat Bhagyesh Jha as its president. Writer and literary critic Bharat Mehta, who teaches Gujarati literature at MS University of Baroda, said he was returning the criticism award that he was given by the Gujarati Sahitya Akademi in 2008 for his work of literary criticism, Vasant Vyakhyan Mala.
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Mehta’s announcement comes after another Gujarati writer, Pravin Pandya, announced to return the award on Saturday, demanding autonomy to the Gujarati Sahitya Akademi, an institution that is considered to be the country’s first state-level literary body. The protesting writers said they oppose the appointment of Jha as the president of the institution, and the move by the state government to tinker with the constitution of the institution that threatens its autonomy. “I return my citation, trophy and Rs 11,000 cash that I was given in 2008 for my book on literary criticism – a collection of four lectures that I had delivered at the Bombay University in 2007 – to protest the state government’s move to change the process of appointment of the president of the body, which has taken away its autonomy. When we met Mr Jha and told him about the concern that we have about the Academy’s autonomy, he said that writers were being Talibani,” Mehta said.
He termed Jha as “unconstitutionally appointed” president. The Academy, which was an autonomous body, used to elect president through vote by 41 writers as members, as per the constitution of the charitable trust. The state government interfered and appointed Jha as its president, without the consent of its writer-members. The matter has been taken to High Court.