Mangalore: Konkani Sahitya Academy going the BCCI way?
Pics: Brijesh Garodi
Daijiworld Media Network - Mangalore
Mangalore, Jun 18: Two days back Kasaragod Chinna was forced to resign as president of Karnataka Konkani Sahitya Academy following the directive of the Chief Minister asking all academy presidents except Madhyama Academy to resign.
Ever since the formation of the Congress government in the state it was expected that the office-bearers of various academies will tender their resignations as these appointments are generally considered as ‘political appointments’. But somehow Chinna held on to the post for nearly one and half months and was finally shown the door though he claims he resigned from the post.
Kasargod Chinna (File Pic )
But Chinna’s resignation has led to a rat race among many aspirants for grabbing the post of the president and also the post of 10 nominated members and 3 co-opt members of the academy which is for the asking. Though none of the members have tendered their resignations so far, it is only a formality before they do so, according to the circular sent by the government. Ironically, it has now come to light that there is hectic lobbying going on to get a prominent businessman from the Catholic community nominated as the president of the academy for the place vacated by Kasaragod Chinna. Mandd Sobhann, a Konkani cultural organization is said to be in the forefront in proposing the name of this businessmen whose knowledge of Konkani and contributions to Konkani literature, art or culture is questioned by many. Many other aspirants have also started lobbying at their own levels for the 13 posts as members (10 nominated and 3 co-opted) of the academy. It is said that members of a prominent organization had been to Bangalore and stayed put there for a couple of days to meet the minister for Kannada and Culture Umashree and other office bearers of the department for lobbying for the post.
In another significant advert, eminent Konkani writers have put forth a demand that only eminent Konkani writers of repute with at least two books of creative writing to their credit should be appointed as president and people with literary background should be made office bearers of the Academy. Henry Mendonca Pernal, eminent writer, editor of Kittall.com and also president of Konkani Writers Forum says “only Konkani writers of credibility and reputation should be appointed as president and office bearers of the academy. According to Kendra Sahitya Academy a writer with at least two creative books to his credit can be considered as a prominet writer and I wish similar criteria should be used to nominate persons for the academy. Such writers should have at least two published books to their credit dated back to three years so that some pseudo-writers don’t get an opportunity to take advantage.”
As president of Konkani Writers Forum (KWF) Henry wrote a letter to chief minister Siddaramaiah on June 10 even before Chinna tendered his resignation. In this letter Henry points out that out of the 14 members in the existing academy (including the president) there is not even a single member who is well-versed with Konkani literature leave alone be a writer of any repute. He also pointed out that the academy was filled with people associated with active BJP members and well-known Konkani writers were not made part of any of the programmes conducted by the academy in these two years. Henry also is critical of the manner in which the academy functioned in these years saying “none of the existing members should be given another chance as they have been a part of the conspiracy that insulted the entire writers’ fraternity”.
Though academies are said to be apolitical it is an open secret that the appointments to various academies are always loaded with political affiliations. It is for this reason lobbyists are working overtime to ensure that their own candidates are nominated for the plum post of president and members of the academy. Though there has been a demand that these posts should be given to preeminent and apolitical people, little has been done to bring about any changes. Rather academies have become tools in the hands of the government to fill in party loyalists and people with high political connections or to rehabilitate some old guards.
Young poet and writer Venkatesh Nayak concurs with Henry’s views saying “In the last two years Konkani Sahitya Academy did not involve any writers in any of its activities. It was sad to note that the president and members invited their own people, people known to them and their acquaintances. Many important organizations which have been toiling for promoting Konkani such as Kavitha Trust, or Konkani Writers Forum were kept away from its activities intentionally. I feel the academy should consist of a proportionate representation of Konkanis who have contributed to diverse fields like art, culture, theatre, literature etc”.
Basti Vaman Shenoy, president of World Konkani Centre and also former president of the academy opines that any Konkani activist well known in the field of literature, art and culture can be appointed as president and nominated as member of the academy. “I strongly feel that any Konkani who has contributed significantly to the Konkani movement or to Konkani mainstream is entitled to be nominated to the post. Such a person should be known to the people through his contributions to Konkani. Konkani Sahithya Academy is for the development of Konkani in diverse fields of art, culture, literature and folklore and need not be confined only for writers. At the same time I am against anyone getting into the academy by sheer money power or political connections”, he points out.
Konkani writer Stephan Quadros who has a number of books to his credit in Konkani, is of the opinion that a well-known literary personality with administrative capability should don the role of president of the academy. He says, “Our past experience has shown us that great writers need not be good administrators. Therefore it is necessary to opt for a literary person with administrative capabilities so that the academy is able to work for the betterment of Konkani. We have to identify such a person and nominate his name for the post”.
It is not that there is a dearth of people with creative talent as writers and administrative capabilities. Melvyn Rodrigues, Central Sahitya Academy award winner has been running Kavitha Trust successfully for the past several years organizing several programmes for promoting Konkani. He has invited national and international personalities from various fields through Kavitha Trust and has been doing wonderful job showcasing even his administrative capability. Senior Konkani writer Edwin J F D Souza has created quite a flutter in Konkani literature and has also demonstrated his administrative talent by being a member of the Central Sahitya Academy and as Executive Director of the Konkani Institute. There are many more people who are blessed with these twin talents and it is only the question of identifying them.
Henry Mendonca points out “it is only cynics who say that creative people don’t have administrative talents. We have amongst us many people who are multi-talented and capable of handling the responsibility given to them just as they wield their pen in doling out creative literature”.
There is no denying the fact that local MLAs and party leaders have a big say in nominating people for the academy post. Congress leader Ivan D'Souza agrees. “It is no secret that these appointments have a political overtone. Apart from people who are well known for their involvement for the progress of Konkani we want someone who projects our party ideology and works in that direction. The various programmes of the government should be implemented. Otherwise there was no need for Kasargod Chinna to resign. He resigned because we asked him to do so. We will nominate someone who has worked for Konkani and who is acceptable to the Konkani speaking people. We will form a committee to look into matter and take their opinion before finalizing the names”. He denied having any knowledge about the hectic lobbying being carried out in favour of a businessman from the Konkani community by certain organizations.
Roy Castelino, president of Konkani Prachar Sanchalan, who is said to be a top contender for the post of academy President and whose name is proposed by Mandd Sobhann denied he has personally lobbied for the post. “My name is being proposed by Mandd Sobhann and they have informed me about it. It is true I had been to Bangalore in connection with the proposed Mandd Sobhann museum and we visited the ministry of Kannada and Culture. That cannot be equated with lobbying”.
Roy also commented that the word ‘Sahitya’ is a misnomer and academy should have been named “Konkani Academy”. When asked whether would propose changing the name if he becomes president he answered in the negative saying he would work for the betterment of Konkani as a whole.
Young poet and writer Wilson Kateel puts it succinctly: “If anyone feels that he or she is qualified for the post of president just by participating in some stage programmes, he is mistaken. We need someone who can represent Konkani and not cut a very sorry figure if and when he/she is asked to be a part of the dialogue on literature, art or culture”.
Since lobbying plays a crucial role there is every possibility that Karnataka Konkani Sahitya Academy will look and become more and more like Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) where non-players like businessmen or politicians become the president and rule the roost. As a result the game of cricket has suffered and players also have not got a raw deal. A similar fate awaits Karnataka Konkani Sahitya Academy if the mantle is handed over to people who are neither known for their literary activism or for their administrative capabilities.
A press meet in this regard was called on Tuesday June 18, wherein H M Pernal, president of Konkani Writers' Forum demanded that only writers of repute be made president and members of the academy.
"The Konkani Writers Forum has 120 writers as members and is the only registered body of Konkani writers in Karnataka. Recently, after the formation of the the new government, chief minister Siddaramaiah had directed presidents of all academies to resign, but Kasargod Chinna did not do so. We then submitted a memorandum to the CM, after which Chinna had to resign. We thank the CM for his quick response," he said.
"Except for the first two terms, the presidents of Konkani Sahitya Academy have come got the coveted post through influence or other means. Kasargod Chinna is not even from Karnataka, and though Kerala too has Konkani academy, he has managed to get the top post here," he said.
"In the coming days when the new team of the academy is formed, it should be ensured that only writers are elected president and members," Pernal urged.
Marcel D'Souza, Konkani Writers's Forum secretary, Jochim Pinto, treasurer, members Raymond D'Cunha and Violet Pereira were present.