Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

A distinguished section of Orissa’s men of letters has raised acrimonious objection to appointment of Husain Ravi Gandhi as President of Orissa Sahitya Akademi. He is a politician, now in Navin Patnaik’s camp and by appointing him as the President, the State Government has politically polluted the Akademi, they allege.

A look into the list of last Presidents of the Akademi reveals that many politicians who had no contribution to Oriya literature had occupied this Chair. Orissa’s writers who are now very vociferous against Husain’s appointment had kept their mouth shut at that time.

Not only they had kept their mouth shut, but also they had and even now they have kept themselves engaged in competing with each other to raise unbound slogans of praise in favor of the man who first set the precedence of appointing a personal political factotum sans any literatural merit as President of Orissa Sahitya Akademi. That man was Biju Patnaik.

Biju Patnaik, whose only marked disdain, when in power, was for probity, was the first Chief Minister under whose rule political pollution of the Sahitya Akademi had begun. He had appointed his political factotum Santos Sahoo as President of the Akademi on 23 September1963 and Sahoo had continued as such till 2 September1966.

The writers who are now raising voice against Husain’s appointment should explain as to why had they remained silent over Sahoo’s appointment.

In a signed article in Sambad, Prof. Nityananda Satapathy has today alleged that Husain is less than a third grade writer.

Who is he to give gradation to a writer and where from he got this carte blanche is not known to any. But it is known to everybody that Sahoo was not a writer and Satapathy had never objected to his placement as President of the Akademi.

All the writers beginning from veterans to the sophomores who have threatened to come down to streets in protest against Husain’s appointment have contributed to this climate of sycophancy by siding with Biju Patnaik through out.

What Biju had done by appointing his political factotum Sahoo as President of the Sahitya Akademi in 1963, his son Navin has done the same thing by appointing Husain in same post in 2008.

If the Oriya writers have never condemned Biju within these forty-five years for the wrong precedence he created in1963 in appointment of Akademi President, a precedence that has been followed many a times such as Sadashiv Tripathy (Chief Minister) self appointing himself as President of Sahitya Akademi on 3 September 1966, Nandini Satapathy appointing Gangadhar Mohapatra on 20 October 1975, Biju again through Nilamoni Rautray appointing Biswabhusan Harichandan on 26 June1977 etc and etc, why should they now condemn Navin for following his father’s footprint?

These fellows who have no qualms in grabbing whatever opportunity the Akademi throws to their advantage have never wanted or worked for the correct writing even of the history of the Akademi.

Except official projection that the Akademi was established in 1957, nothing is made available to the public about how and by whom with what aims and objects it was started.

People of Orissa do not know when it had died and who had caused that death. People do not know, what happened to its original purpose, to its original Constitution.

All that is available shows that on obliteration of the original Sahitya Akademi, a stick of tricks to beat down Orissa’s authors to acquiesce into official authority was conceived and created by Harekrushna Mahtab and his cronies in 1970 and the original Sahitya Akademi was misappropriated by them and was registered as a society under the Registration of Societies Act, 1860 on 25 July1970.

I deliberately stress on misappropriation of the Akademi by Mahtab and his cronies in view of the preamble of the Constitution on which the Akademi now stands.

It says, “Whereas it is considered expedient to establish a State Organisation to work actively for the development of Oriya literature and to set high literary standards to foster and co-ordinate literary activities and to promote through them all, the cultural unity of the State, we the following persons, hereby resolve to establish and operate the “Orissa Sahitya Akademi”.

Nowhere it is indicated that the Orissa Sahitya Akademi, established in 1957 was getting registered as a Society by the new office-bearers comprising Mahtab etc; but the preamble noted above has clearly declared that Mahtab and his companions took steps for “establishment” of the Akademi in 1970.

Therefore I stress that the original Orissa Sahitya Akademi was misappropriated by Mahtab and his group in 1970.

This group had formulated and registered the Constitution of the present Akademi that stipulates under Article 3 that there shall be only four Officers of the Akademi and they shall be the President. The Vice-President, the Treasurer and the Secretary. Artcles 4 to 7 of this Constitution stipulate that the State Government shall appoint all these four Officers. But nowhere there is any mention of any necessity of any of the officers being men or women of letters. So the State Government can appoint any idiot to any of the four offices of the Akademi if it so likes.

So, the question now is: who are the writers of Orissa to object to appointment of anybody to any post of the Akademi – President, Vice-President, Treasurer and Secretary – if they have no objection to the above provisions?

I have mentioned above how Biju had appointed his political factotum Santos Sahoo as President of Orissa Sahitya Akademi in 1963 and how Sadashiv Tripathy being the Chief Minister had self-appointed himself as its President in 1966.

If therefore, after R.N.Singhdeo headed a coalition government with Mahtab’s Jana Congress, it was thought prudent to kill that politically polluted Akademi and to give birth to a totally new Akademi with a new Constitution and to register the same under the Registration of Societies Act in order to add legality to the set-up as well as to the said Constitution, it should have developed as a democratic body of writers with elimination of every scope of any of its positions going to politicians or non-writers in future.

But that never happened.

Mahtab and his cronies willfully killed the purpose behind reincarnation of the Sahitya Akademi.

Ramakanta Rath was then the Secretary of Education & Cultural Affairs Department under Government of Orissa. He along with Sri B.C. Nayak constituted the Governing Body under presidentship of Mahtab. The other members, who constituted the General Body, were H.N.Das Mahapatra, the then Director of Cultural Affairs, Dr. S.C.Dash, the then Head of Department of Political science of Utkal University, Prof. G.B.Dhal, the then HoD of Oriya in Ravenshaw College and Sri B.N.Kar, the then Editor of Matrubhumi.

None of these fellows was elected by writers of Orissa to form the General Body of the new incarnation of Orissa Sahitya Akademi. This body was clamped on the peoples of Orissa. All of them were handpicked by Mahtab who was considered the Super Chief Minister of Orissa as R.N. Singhdeo was dependant on him for survival in Chief Minister’s chair. He picked up his cronies and formed the General Body and framed the Constitution and made it registered.

He was naturally shown as the President of the Akademi.

But how was he shown?

Not as a writer or organizer of literary events. He was shown as a “Political and Social Worker” by occupation.

So the new incarnation of the Akademi commenced its activities with a President who was so appointed not as a writer or man of letters, but as a “Political and Social Worker”.

Did the writers of Orissa object to that at that time? No.

Why didn’t they object to appointment of a man as President of the Sahitya Akademi in the capacity of a “Political and Social Worker” instead of as a Writer or a man of Letters?

It was simply because the writers were eager to please Mahtab with an eye on Bishuva Award that his Prajatantra Prachar Samity was granting. They were also eager to please Mahtab in order to earn favored treatment to their respective writings in Jhankar, the literary journal Mahtab was publishing.

What moral or legal rights then these writers have to object to Husain’s appointment?

It is worth mention that since the day the present Orissa Sahitya Akademi came into existence, instead of acting as conscience keepers of the state, most of Orissa’s writers have preferred to act like sycophants of persons in office. That is helping them in obtaining awards and in clearing obstacles from the path of their works entering into the arena of Book business named after Raja Ram Mohan Roy.

Due to this spiritual deterioration of Orissa authors, they have tolerated consecration of Giridhari Gamang, Hemananda Biswal and Navin Ptanaik in the President chair of Orissa Sahitya Akademi.

Either fear for persons in power or greed for awards has made contemporary writers of Orissa so spineless that they are not daring to call a spade a spade and taking advantage of this, agents of caste apartheid in Orissa are misusing official machineries to keep the historical poet Jaya Dev buried under legends so that his socio-political creed sic passim in his famous female centric love songs that had led Orissa to cast aside caste-culture and strengthen Buddhist tenets in the citadel of Sri Jagannatha remain obstructed forever from the present generation. Writers have a right to bring the right thing to public knowledge. But Orissa’s writers have remained too docile to go against persons who never want the peoples to know the right thing.

When this has been the trend so far, why all on a sudden they have raised a raucous voice against appointment of Husain as President of the Akademi? Particularly when this year is the last year of Navin Patnaik in power this leg?

I smell politics.

Navin’s misrule has so brutally dragged down Orissa to despondency that authors being sensitive people are no more able to tolerate. Their subconscious wrath was in search for a point of ventilation that the Akademi appointments have provided. Now one may look at it as a development that portends end of Navin misrule.

Politics has also its poisonous fang concealed under the writers’ emerging stir in Orissa. Prof. Satapathy, in the article hinted to above, has sharpened his attack on the ground that appointment of Husain is an act of appeasement to minority community. It is a shame that an author and a former Professor is looking into the matter in a communal color.

So, are the anti-Muslim communalists eager to take advantage of the disadvantage caused to Orissa Sahitya Akademi by its total bureaucratization?

In the circumstances, this is not surprising.


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