• The Latest Victims of Cultural Terrorism: A Dalit Poet and a Dalit Scholar

    Pranita Kulkarni

    October 13, 2016

    Pradnya Daya Pawar. Photo courtesy Praful Gangurde

    In what is being dubbed as an appalling attack on the freedom of expression of writers, renowned dalit poet and activist Pradnya Daya Pawar, along with eminent dalit scholar Dr Raosaheb Kasbe, were shown the door at the Maharashtra Sahitya Parishad’s literature festival in Patan, Satara.

    The organisers of the festival, who had invited Pawar to be the key speaker, and Kasbe as the chief guest of the two-day-festival last week, reportedly gave in to mob pressure that demanded action against both the speakers. The organisers asked the two speakers to leave citing “security concerns”.

    Prof. Pawar confirmed the incident to Sabrang India, and has expressed her disappointment with the organisers and the “cultural terrorism” that led to the unfortunate incident in an elaborate Facebook post.

    Pawar's speech on the first day of the festival was titled "Challenges of Cultural Terrorism". Her speech was well-received by thousands of listeners who were present at that venue. In her speech, she criticised the propagation of a culture that intends to suppress counter-narratives by artists and writers.

    Stating that an imposition of censorship by social forces is far more dangerous than one imposed by the government, she said, “Writers in India have become frightened and insecure today. The rules regulating what to write and what not to write are being inscribed on their body. This has been achieved by RSS cultural nationalism, which, in fact, is giving rise to cultural terrorism.” She also mentioned incidents in Bangladeshi where writers have been murdered with repeated attacks on their freedom of speech and expression.

    Taking on the Modi dispensation for their inaction over several attacks on, and murders of radical authors and activists in the country, Pawar said, “Modi had sworn to protect the constitution of India when he came to power. Looks like, it took him no time to forget all about his promises. He has turned into a mookanayak just like Manmohan Singh.”  

    In her Facebook post, Pawar has claimed that a planned conspiracy has led to the incident in Patan. “People appreciated my speech and complimented me for my analytical style. They were thronging around me to take my autograph and clicking pictures with me just after my speech. No one objected to anything in my speech that day. Something conspired through the night, however, and a crazy mob of around 100 people started sloganeering "Jai Bavani, Jai Shiavji" outside my room. the organisers asked us to leave, pretending as if we were being made to leave for our own security.”

    Pawar has condemned the inability of the organisers to protect the chief guests. “How ironic! This incident took place during a festival dedicated to Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar’s memory. The topic of the debate after we left was: 'Freedom of Expression and Apathy of the litterateurs'!” she wrote.

    She further wrote, “You are a dalit and you have no right to speak up; if you dare to speak up, you’ll face its consequences. This is the message that they want to deliver. But, we’ll keep fighting. We believe in democracy and I am not going to sheath my words.”

    Pawar is the daughter of late dalit author and poet Daya Pawar, whose autobiography Baluta had created ripples in Marathi literature, and had earned him several honours for a heart-wrenching narration of the oppression of untouchables.

    This article has been republished from Sabrang India with minor editorial changes.

    Donate to the Indian Writers' Forum, a public trust that belongs to all of us.