Amid flak by opposition leaders and authors over rescinding the invitation to author Nayantara Sahgal to inaugurate the 92nd all-India All Marathi literary meet, the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) Monday distanced itself from the controversy.
In a statement, the CMO said that the decision on who to invite for the meet is taken by the organisers and the state government has no role in it.
The CMO statement came after the organisers invited Sahgal, 91, to attend the meet, scheduled this week at Yavatmal, and later cancelled it, citing law and order issues.
Opposition leaders like Mumbai Congress chief Sanjay Nirupam alleged the invitation was cancelled at the behest of the ruling BJP.
The CMO statement said a section of media is dragging the state government’s name in the controversy. The Akhil Bharatiya Sahitya Mahamandal (which organises the meet), is an autonomous body and neither the CM nor the state government interfere in its functioning, it said.
The Sharad Pawar-led NCP was not impressed by the government’s statement and said the invitation was cancelled “out of fear that Prime Minister Narendra Modi” would not like if Sahgal, niece of first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, attended the literary meet.
The NCP said Modi always speaks against Nehru and asked Fadnavis to re-invite Sahgal for the meeting.
The noted English-language author who was at the forefront of the ‘award-wapsi’ (returning of awards) campaign, was to inaugurate the meet on January 11 in the presence of Fadnavis.
In 2015, several writers returned their awards to protest against what they described as “rising intolerance and growing assault on free speech” under the Narendra Modi government.
NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik said, “The way Sahagal’s invitation was cancelled by the organisers of the meet, the government’s hand is there somewhere (in this).”
“Modi always speaks against Nehru. Sahgal belongs to Nehru’s family. There is a fear in the mind of the Maharashtra BJP and the chief minister of Maharashtra that if Nayantara Sahgal attends the meeting, Modi won’t be happy,” Malik said.
The invitation was cancelled after a member of the MNS threatened to disrupt the meeting opposing Sahgal’s presence, the NCP leader said.
“If the invitation was cancelled in the name of law and order, it is the responsibility of the Chief Minister, who is also home minister of the state, to convince Sahgal to attend the function,” Malik said.