Marathi writer refuses to retract ‘anti-Modi’ remarks

The controversy surrounding Marathi literary meet continued to generate heat in literary and political circles in Maharashtra with a question mark over the invitation to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis for the event following sammelan president Sripal Sabnis’ remarks against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Sabnis had allegedly criticised Modi’s surprise visit to Pakistan last month. He drew flak from the BJP which has been organising protests against him at Pimpri near here, where the 89th All India Marathi Sahitya Sammelan, a prestigious annual convention of writers, is slated for January 16.

In a rebuke to a tweet by Sanatan Sanstha activist Sanjeev Punalekar who asked Sabnis to “start taking morning walk”, in an apparent reference to the fateful morning walks by slain rationalists Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare — the sammelan president walked on Monday morning with his supporters who condemned Punalekar’s “threat”.

Asserting that he would not tender an apology and was not afraid of any threats to his life, Sabnis today said he would not retract any of his statements and urged Fadnavis to attend the sammelan, which is a traditional event devoted to Marathi language.

Punalekar denied that his tweet advising Sabnis to take morning walk was meant to be a threat saying “I myself take morning walks which is good for health”.

Meanwhile, BJP spokesman Madhav Bhandari told reporters that the Chief Minister was invited for the event, but that did not necessarily mean that he would attend it.

Bhandari said that it was his personal opinion that the grant of Rs 25 lakh customarily given by the state government to the sammelan organisers should be diverted to the Chief Minister’s drought relief fund, in view of deficient rainfall in Maharashtra.

On the other hand, the reception committee chairman of the sammelan, P D Patil, has requested Sabnis to end the controversy over his remarks. Noted Marathi poet Vitthal Wagh said the event should be canceled in view of the vitiated atmosphere.

The BJP activists also paraded Sabnis’s effigy on a donkey at Pimpri to register their protest.

In his controversial remarks, Sabnis had said that Modi could have fallen to a bullet or a bomb explosion at the Lahore airport and a condolence meeting would have been organised for him instead of poet Mangesh Padgaonkar (who died recently).