The Gujarat Sahitya Akademi has criticised poet Parul Khakhar for her poem on the bodies of suspected Covid-19 patients found floating in river Ganga in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, saying that it was being used to spread “anarchy”, reported The Indian Express on Thursday.
In an editorial in Gujarat Sahitya Akademi official publication, Shabdashrushti, the academy’s chairperson Vishnu Pandya also called the residents circulating or discussing the poem “literary Naxals”.
The poem Shav Vahini Ganga, originally written by Khakhar in Gujarati, criticises the Narendra Modi government and talks about the suffering of Indians during the second coronavirus wave, according to The Wire. Khakhar had posted the poem on her Facebook page on May 11, and it has since then been translated into at least six languages, including Hindi and English.
The poem talks about the massive number of deaths during the second wave that had left the crematoriums overloaded. The 14-line satire refers to the country as “Ram rajya” (the kingdom of deity Ram), where river Ganga has become a “shav vahini” (hearse).
This is in reference to thousands of bodies that have been found floating or buried alongside river Ganga in districts of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh during the second wave of Covid cases.
In the editorial, Pandya does not directly mention the poem but confirmed to The Indian Express that it is about the Shav Vahini Ganga.
The editorial described the poem as a “pointless angst expressed in a state of agitation” and said that its words are misused by forces who are “anti-Centre and anti-Centre’s nationalist ideologies”.
“The said poem has been used as a shoulder to fire from by such elements who have started a conspiracy, whose commitment is not to India but to something else, who are Leftist, so-called liberals, to whom nobody pays any attention,” the editorial said. “Such people want to quickly spread chaos in India and create anarchy… They are active on all fronts and in the same way they have jumped into literature with dirty intentions.”
The editorial said that “literacy Naxals” was trying to influence a section of people who would relate to their grief and happiness to the poem. It said that Khakhar’s works have been published by the academy and that Gujarati citizens would welcome her poem if they are good.
Pandya told The Indian Express that there was no essence in her poetry and that it was not a proper way to write one. “This could be merely venting out one’s anger or frustration, and it is being misused by liberals, anti-Modi, anti-BJP and anti-Sangh (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) elements.”
Pandya clarified that he was no personal grudge against Khakhar. “But this is not a poem and several elements are using it as a weapon for social fragmentation…”
India’s healthcare infrastructure had crumbled under the pressure of the second wave, leading to a massive surge in cases and deaths. The cases count had crossed the 3-lakh mark and on a few occasions, it had touched 4 lakh in May. The toll was in thousands but several reports alleged that the fatalities were underreported.