AFTER ENGLISH author Nayantara Sahgal’s invite to the Akhil Bharatiya Marathi Sahitya Sammelan — scheduled to begin at Yavatmal on Friday — was revoked, the organisers have chosen a farmer’s widow to inaugurate the event. Meanwhile, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis will also skip the function as chief guest, as he will be in New Delhi to attend BJP’s national executive. Minister for Cultural Affairs Vinod Tawade will be the new chief guest.
“The CM, however, will attend the fest on January 12. Union Minister for Surface Transport Nitin Gadkari will attend the valedictory function,” said the chairman of the reception committee and state Minister Madan Yerawar.
Rekha Deodhar, vice-president of Akhil Bharatiya Marathi Sahitya Mahamandal, said: “Farmer widow Vaishali Yede, whose husband committed suicide seven years ago, will open the Sammelan tomorrow. The decision was taken by local organisers (Dr V B Kolte Sanshodhan Kendra Va Vachanalaya).”
Yede (28) tills three acres at Rajur village in Kalamb tehsil. She has a daughter, 7, and a son, 8. She had married at the age of 19 and became a widow at 21 when her husband Sudhakar committed suicide.
She had also acted in a play, Terawa, by writer Shyam Pethkar on farm widows.
“Yavatmal is known for agrarian distress and farmers’ suicides. Vaishali Yede has shouldered the responsibility of her family after her husband’s suicide. By having her to inaugurate the sammelan, we also want to send a positive signal to the society,” said Yerawar.
Local farm activist Devanand Pawar, who had opposed the “splurge of money (in the event) in the face of acute drought in the district”, said: “We welcome the move although it’s late… I hope she would bring to the fore the problems faced by farmers… any attempt to dictate her the contents of the speech should be resisted.”
Kishor Tiwari, chairman of state task force Vasantrao Naik Sheti Swawlaman Mission also welcomed the move. “But I have been told that she is being told the wat to say tomorrow. This is inappropriate,” he said.
Earlier, the organisers had tried rope in noted playwright Mahesh Elkunchwar, poet Vithal Wagh and writer-editor Suresh Dwadashiwar to inaugurate the Sammelan after the invite to Sehgal was revoked.
All of them, however, had declined the invite.