Day before the inauguration of the 92nd Akhil Bhartiya Marathi Sahitya Sammelan at Yavatmal, the organising committee on Sunday revoked its invite to English litterateur Nayantara Sehgal.
Sehgal (91), a Sahitya Akademi awardee, was invited more than a month ago to inaugurate the three-day conclave on January 11. On Sunday, the organisers announced that she was requested not to come “as they were unable to fulfil their commitment to have her at the function due to some unavoidable reasons”. The organisers said that the threat issued by some local activists through media to disrupt the event had forced them to take the call.
The conclave is being organised jointly by the Akhil Bhartiya Marathi Sahitya Mahamandal and Yavatmal’s Dr V B Kolte Sanshodhan Kendra Ani Vachanalay — the local organiser.
Dissenting voices were being heard from some quarters against holding of the conclave at Yavatmal. Leading the charge was Devanand Pawar, a Congress leader and farm activist. Pawar had issued a statement alleging “splurge of crores of rupees” on the event at a time when the district was facing severe drought. An MNS activist from Vani, Raju Umarkar, had threatened to disrupt the proceedings, saying that he didn’t approve of an English writer being invited to inaugurate the Marathi conclave.
Both had, however, changed their stand, saying that they were not opposed to Sehgal’s presence. The MNS has issued a statement that it was not opposed to inviting Sehgal.
Loksatta editor Girish Kuber and ABP Maza Editor Rajiv Khandekar have said that they would not attend the conclave, where they have been invited to speak on personal freedom. They have asked the organisers to apologise to Sehgal and invite her again.
On Sunday, Sehgal wrote to Ramakant Kolte, the working president of the organising committee, saying: “I quite understand that in the present distressing circumstances you have had to cancel your kind invitation to me to inaugurate the Marathi Sahitya Sammelan. I am deeply sorry that this had to happen. Please convey my warmest wishes to the organisers.”
Kolte could not be reached for a comment.
In a statement, Mahamandal chairman Shripad Joshi said: “Mahamandal has nothing to do with the revocation of invite. The revocation was done by the local organisers, who foresaw some trouble due to some local factors in the peaceful holding of the programme. The Mahamandal is in no way connected…”
Devanand Pawar, in a statement, said: “We were opposed to an English writer being invited for the Marathi literature conclave. But we condemned the manner in which the invite was revoked. We hold Nayantara Sehgal in highest esteem and demand that the organisers tender an apology to the writer…”