The Shiv Sena on Tuesday claimed author Nayantara Sahgal’s invitation to a literary meeting in Maharashtra was rescinded after the organisers found out that she was going to speak about incidents of cow violence and lynching.
Organisers of the 92nd All India Marathi Meet on Sunday revoked Sahgal’s invitation workers of the the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena objected to it. The organisers said they wanted to “avoid any untoward incident and in view of the controversy that has cropped up against her name”. The writer was scheduled to inaugurate the meeting on January 11 in Yavatmal in the presence of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, and acclaimed Marathi author Aruna Dhere.
“The organisers must have thought that they will have to forego ‘sarkari meherbani’ [favours from government] if Nayantara Sahgal is called for the event,” the Shiv Sena wrote in an editorial in its mouthpiece Saamana on Tuesday. “They have killed the freedom of expression and self-respect of writers.”
“Nayantara, who is feared by the ruling party today, is the same person who was jailed during the Emergency for speaking against Indira Gandhi,” the editorial added. “This means she is not against an ideology or a political party but against all that is wrong.”
Several others, both citizens as well as politicians, have condemned the revocation of the invitation.
Sahgal said on Tuesday that it was obvious that political pressure by those who are in power in Maharashtra led her invitation being cancelled. “It is only obvious because the organisers of the event are aware of my views, my writings and my concerns, which I have been talking about openly, and they had invited me with great happiness,” she told PTI. “Political pressure by those who are in power in Maharashtra” led to the cancellation, she added.
The 91-year-old author, who was at the forefront of the “award-wapsi” campaign in 2015, had said on Monday that she will not attend the 92nd all-India Marathi Sahitya Sammelan this week, even if a fresh invitation is issued to her. Her statement came despite the Chief Minister’s Office issuing a statement that it has nothing to do with deciding the invitations.
Following the incident, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray had said that his party was not against inviting Sahgal to the meet, and expressed regret for the trouble the organisers had faced.
In October 2015, Sahgal had given back her Sahitya Akademi award, which she had won for her novel Rich Like Us in 1986. She had returned the award as a protest against the increasing intolerance in the country, attacks on the right to dissent in India and the Sahitya Akademi’s silence over attacks on writers and rationalists in the country.