Prominent Dalit Marathi writer and poet Pradnya Daya Pawar, who has announced her decision to return the five state awards she has won through her career, has said the “undeclared Emergency now is harsher than the Emergency declared by the then government in 1975”.
In a letter written in Marathi and sent to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Tuesday, she likened the current political scenario to 1975. “We Indians are undergoing a phase of undeclared Emergency today. This Emergency is much harsher than the one in 1975. It was only governmental machinery that was keeping surveillance on common people. But now the ruling party and its supporters are keeping a close eye on our everyday activities — where we reside, work and move around.
There is increasing hooliganism in all cultural fields like education, history, science, art and literature. Public space of discourse and discussion has become totally hateful and odious,” the letter said.
Pawar cited several instances of “communal intolerance” that have taken place since the BJP government came to power. This includes the killing of Mohammad Akhlaq in Dadri over a rumour of cow slaughter, incidents of atrocities against Dalits in Maharashtra and the ghar-wapsi campaign that made news in 2014. “People around me have to rethink all the time what to eat, drink, how to live, whom to love and whom not to love, what to wear and how to express themselves; they are living under the shadow of unidentifiable fear,” she wrote to the CM.
The 48-year-old poet — daughter of Daya Pawar, the Dalit Marathi writer of the seminal autobiography, Baluta, and a Padma Shri recipient — also expressed concern over the killings of rationalists Dr Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and MM Kalburgi.
Pawar, however, appreciated the support the Maharashtra government provided to Pakistan’s former foreign minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri for his book launch that ally Shiv Sena protested against. But, she pointed out, the common man didn’t enjoy the same sense of security despite being a citizen.
“I appeal to the chief minister of Maharashtra that…being the chief of government in the state he would ensure to
guarantee the dignified life and freedom to every citizen of the state,” Pawar wrote.
She has returned her Balkavi Puraskar for her first book Antahstha; two Indira Sant Vishesh Puraskar won for Mi Bhidawu Pahatey Samagrashi Dola and Aarpaar Layit Pranantik; GL Thokal Award for Afawa Khari Tharawi Mhanun; and the prestigious Kavi Keshavsut award she received in 2013. The cumulative prize money amounts to Rs 1,13,000.
She is one of several Marathi writers who have announced their decision to return state awards. Among them are Harishchandra Thorat, Ganesh Visputay, Sanjay Bhaskar Joshi and Yeshu Patil. A Pune resident, Joshi is in the process of drafting his letter to the chief minister and points out that the continuing farmer suicides in Maharashtra are among the issues he is protesting against.
Several others, including Thorat, plan to get together and draft a letter collectively to convey the widespread despair over the current political situation in India and to express solidarity with other prominent writers who have returned their respective awards to the government.