Writer takes award in absentia

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By OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
  • Published 26.05.12
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Author and recipient of the Vidyasagar Smriti Puraskar for literature Sibaji Bandyopadhyay accepted the honour but stayed away from the award ceremony on Friday and sent a student in his stead.

Sumanta Mukhopadhyay received the award from chief minister Mamata Banerjee on his teacher’s behalf.

Bandyopadhyay, a teacher at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, had written to the state government on Thursday after writer-activist Mahasweta Devi resigned as president of the Paschimbanga Bangla Akademi, saying her recommendation for the award had been ignored. Mahasweta Devi had suggested two names, including Bandyopadhyay’s.

The Bangla Akademi sent a statement to Bandyopadhyay to clear the air on the selection process. Bandyopadhyay wrote back to the government on Friday morning.

“He said he was happy to accept the award though he would not be able to receive it himself. In his place, his student Sumanta Mukhopadhyay would receive it,” a senior official in the information and cultural affairs department said.

Bandyopadhyay could not be contacted for comment.

Twenty-five state awards were conferred at the programme at Nazrul Mancha on Friday, Kazi Nazrul Islam’s 113th birth anniversary. Among the other award-winners were Feroza Begum, a Nazrulgeeti singer from Bangladesh who was given the Bishesh Nazrul Puraskar, actor-director Manoj Mitra who received the Dinabandhu Puraskar and singer and Trinamul MLA Anup Ghosal, who received the Nazrul Smriti Puraskar.

The chief minister was silent on the controversy over the selection process for the award and the allegations of Mahasweta Devi, with whom she once shared a close bond.

But Mamata did speak on another controversy that has been hounding her government — the renaming of Indira Bhavan. “We wanted Nazrul Bhavan to come up at Jyoti Basu’s residence. It is just a guesthouse and was not named after anybody. But some people have been protesting. I won’t allow any controversy over anything related to Rabindranath Tagore, Nazrul Islam and Swami Vivekananda,” she said.

Mamata now plans to set up Nazrul Tirtha at Rajarhat. Last year, she had announced a plan to set up Rabi Tirtha, also at Rajarhat. “Nazrul Tirtha would be more than a bhavan or an academy. There will be a Nazrul Bhavan, an academy, a research centre and an archive on Nazrul Islam. Construction of Rabi Tirtha is 75 per cent complete. It will be ready in three-four months,” Mamata said.

The chief minister also announced plans to set up Kazi Nazrul University in Asansol, near Churulia village where the poet was born, in Burdwan.