A group of concerned citizens and social activists have written an open letter to the chairman of Goa Konkani Academy regarding the controversy over the selection of veteran writer Vishnu Wagh’s book Sudir Sukt for Konkani Akademi  award.  Stating that the book expresses the pain, revolt, revulsion, angst and anger towards the age-old caste system that persists and is going strong the letter has asked the academy and the government to confer the award on the book. “Despite the agitation, the award is well-deserved and overdue. It should go through,”  the letter adds.  “What is at stake with this award is the credibility and legitimacy of the Akademi and the government,” states the letter.

 

Open Letter To Goa Konkani Academy

A few weeks ago Sanjiv Verekar prematurely made a public disclosure that the jury of the Konkani Akademi Committee, in its confidential deliberation, selected Shri Vishnu Wagh’s Sudirsukt, a poetry book published in 2013, for an award.

 

Sanjiv Verekar’s ‘leak’ seems to have been aimed to agitate the public to go against the jury’s decision, as he had been a minority dissenting voice in the jury that selected the book for the award.

 

Soon, a small chorus followed suit suggesting that the book created, or would create, hatred between communities and that it used vulgar language. It was argued that these characteristics should disqualify the book against the better judgement of the majority jury. The book, which has lived its quiet life since 2013, has not provoked any agitation. But clearly the objection to this award is designed to stimulate such an agitation.

 

So, what is the fuss really all about?

 

What seems to be at the core is that those who have for long controlled the description and use of Konkani, and enjoy hegemony over the state apparatus and its cultural organs, want to prevent the validation and legitimization of the book that the award could bestow upon it. Why so? Because it expresses the pain, revolt, revulsion, angst and anger towards the age-old caste system that persists and is going strong. As succinctly captured by Wagh in this very book:

 

‘After they bathe
They become pure
We however
Remain polluted.’

 

Clearly the book is of its time and its place. It has an amazing literary merit that powerfully captures local history and its contested presence today. It is this very literary merit that makes the book so threatening to the establishment.

 

If the criteria suggested by those who oppose the award to Sudirsukt are accepted, then we would have to withdraw Namdeo Dassal’s Padma Shri and Sahitya Akademi Award for life time achievement on the grounds that it celebrated bad taste in language and incited anger and hatred against some communities.

 

Transgression is the very essence of social and hierarchical change. As expressed by a commentator ‘…it took as late as 2013 for what Wagh does: create a manifesto for the injustice suffered by Sudhirs in Sudirsukt, and I dare say this is what makes his writing stunning.’

 

How the government and the Akademi will respond is a test of these institutions. What is at stake with this award is the credibility and legitimacy of the Akademi and the government. The literary merit of Sudirsukt has never been in doubt, not in 2013, and even less so now.

Despite the agitation, the award is well-deserved and overdue. It should go through.

 

 

Thanking you for your attention,

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Albertina Almeida  , Alito Siqueira  , Amita Kanekar  , Angela Ferrao ,Aniruddha Sen Gupta  , Apurva Kulkarni  , Dan Driscoll  , Isabel Santa Rita Vas  ,Jason Keith Fernandes , Leonard Fernandes  , Luis Dias ,Salil Chaturvedi  ,Vasudha Savaikar  , Victor Rangel-Ribeiro  , Vidyadhar Gadgil