‘Sudirsukt’, a collection of Konkani poems written by Vishnu Surya Wagh, and targeting the Saraswat community, including women, with the use of extreme abusive words, has stirred up a hornet’s nest, with the book now all set to win the Goa Konkani Akademi’s annual literary award in the poetry category.
The 152-page book published in 2013 by Hema Naik of Volvoi-based Apurbai Prakashan publishing house, flouts the government guideline wherein a book considered for an award to be given from the public exchequer, should compulsorily refrain from making any casteist statements or using offensive and insulting language against a particular caste.
The news about the book being selected as the winner of the GKA award in the poetry category recently spilled out on the social media as one of the jury members, Sanjeev Verenkar, objected to the selection of the book for the award, and advocated vigorously against the decision of the other two jury members to support the book.
The director of Official Language Prakash Vazrikar, who is also the president of the Goa Konkani Akademi told ‘The Navhind Times’ on Monday that the Akademi had not awarded its annual literary awards, for the past two years and therefore, started the exercise of selecting Konkani books for awards in various categories.
“The book by Wagh is just one of the entries, in one of the categories, and its fate is still sealed in the envelope,” he maintained, informing that one of the jury members had leaked the result before the official announcement, which is an unethical thing to do.
Vazrikar further said that the results of the GKA awards would be out only after the Model Code of Conduct, which is in force due to the August 23 assembly by-election, is lifted.
Meanwhile, Verenkar, himself a poet and writer of repute said that he had opposed the decision of his jury colleagues since he did not desire to be a party to the filth contained in the book, being selected for an award.
“I have never supported caste-based attacks, neither in my life, nor in my literature,” he added, pointing out that a book threatening the communal harmony in the state, should ideally not be given an award by an organisation, which runs on the government grants.
The leading Konkani protagonist and Sahitya Akademi Award winner Uday Bhembre, opposing awards to any literary work that threatens the social and communal fabric, and uses offensive language against any community, said that the government should form eligibility criteria for its literary awards, just as the Sahitya Akademi does.
“Awards mean encouragement to the writers and the content in their books,” Bhembre observed, pointing out, “If awards are given to something that is threat to the society, then that would directly mean encouragement to it, and nothing else.”
“In fact, such a thing could set a precedent, in turn bringing forth more such books and creating divide between communities, who lived in harmony till now,” the Konkani poet maintained, recalling that he himself as well as the Konkani litterateur, Ravindra Kelekar, in the past, wrote against few unacceptable traditions in some communities.
“However, we never carried out personal attack on the members of any community,” he noted.
Incidentally, ‘Sudirsukt’, which was selected by two jury members, namely Nilba Khandekar, a Konkani writer, and Sonali Chodankar, who has no particular literary work to her credit, launches a harsh attack on the members of the Saraswat community, their traditions, rituals, and even their religious head, by using filthiest language.
The poems paint Saraswats as those responsible for all the atrocities committed on various other local communities.
Even if one allows poetic licence and freedom of expression to the poet, the decision of a government-aided body to support a book of discriminatory nature does not auger well with the democratic system of considering all human beings at equal
In fact, the Goa Konkani Akademi could land in trouble if a case is filed against it under Section 504 of the Indian Penal Code, which speaks about intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace, and Section 509 of the Act as regards use of word (words), gesture (gestures) or act (acts) intended to insult the modesty of a woman/ women.
Meanwhile, demand is growing to withdraw the book from all government libraries, including government as well as grant-in-aid school libraries around the state.