Parallel literary meet to protest bias
A group of progressive writers and activists has decided to organise a parallel literary event protesting the lack of adequate representation for Muslim and Dalit writers at the state-sponsored Kannada Sahitya Sammelana that began in Haveri on Friday.
The parallel event, titled Jana Sahitya Sammelana, is to be held in Bangalore on Sunday and has the support of literary figures such as Bargur Ramachandrappa, Devanooru Mahadevappa and actor-activist Prakash Raj, its organisers said.
The 86th Kannada Sahitya Sammelana, being organised by the Kannada Sahitya Parishat from January 6 to 8, has completely ignored Dalit writers while limiting the Muslim invitees to poet Chand Pasha N.S. and two others.
At least three eminent poets — Pasha, H.R. Sujatha and Ramesh Aroli — have pulled out of the event in protest against what they felt were discriminatory speakers’ lists. Sujatha was scheduled to chair a panel discussion. Pasha said he was among just three Muslim writers enlisted as speakers.
“Having a hidden agenda of hatred towards any community is tantamount to setting fire to the ‘garden of peace for all races’,” Pasha wrote in his letter to Parishat president Mahesh Joshi, expressing his dissent.
Kuvempu, the Rashtra Kavi of Karnataka, had described the state as “Sarva janangada shantiya thota” or “a garden of peace for all races”.
Progressive writers have often alleged a shift in the policies and functioning of the Parishat since the BJP came to power in the state. The BJPRSS had allegedly supported Joshi, a former additional director-general with Doordarshan, in the election for president of the 108-year-old literary body in 2021.
Pasha alleged the Parishat was discriminating against specific communities, that too in Haveri, the land of philosopher-social reformer Shishunala Sharif and philosopher-saint Kanakadasa.
Underlining how the literary event’s chairperson, writer-lyricist Doddarange Gowda, had in the past described Hindi as the “national language”, Pasha urged progressive writers to boycott the event.
Gowda had apologised for his comment, made in 2021. Sujatha, in her letter informing the literary body she was boycotting the event, flagged the exclusion of many eminent writers from marginalised communities from the lists of speakers at the various sessions.
“They do not include the names of Beary Muslim writers and other important voices,” she wrote.
Beary is a language spoken by Muslims in Uttar Kannada district. Eminent Kannada writer and one of the promoters of the parallel event, Purushothama Bilimale, said in a video message that the Kannada Sahitya Parishat had not been doing enough to discuss how communalism was dividing society.
“Communalism has divided the people and spread unrest and mistrust in society. In such circumstances we need to discuss how to protect society and maintain peace,” Bilimale said.
“But neither the Kannada Sahitya Parishat nor the universities are doing enough to discuss the issue.”