In its 93rd edition, Akhil Bharatiya Marathi Sahitya Sammelan is being held in Maharashtra’s Osmanabad from 10th to 12th of January this year.
This year’s Sahitya Sammelan is being presided over by a Catholic priest, Father Francis D’Britto. A religious priest presiding over Marathi Sahitya Sammelan is unprecedented and came as a surprise to many since most of Fr D’Britto’s work relates to Christian religious ideology.
However, amid all criticism and questions, the Sammelan has kick-started today. Following every year’s tradition, there was a ‘Granth-Dindi’ in the morning prior to the inauguration ceremony. This Dindi is a procession with a Palkhi. Dindi is a tradition peculiar to Maharashtra’s bhakti movement and Sant Parampara. The Palkhi in this Dindi (दिंडी) carries Various books and the constitution of India. The Dindi this year was also carrying an idol of goddess Tulajabhavani as the goddess hails from Osmanabad where is Sammelan is being held.
Every year, the president performs a puja and participates in this Dindi. This year breaking this glorious tradition, Fr D’britto declined to participate in the Dindi citing poor health. Questions are being raised over his absence in the Dindi. People are wondering if he was pressurized by the church to skip this Granth-Dindi.
Amid this controversy, one more incident happened at the Sammelan venue. There are bookstalls of various publications and news agencies at the Sammelan venue. One of the stalls was of Mumbai Tarun Bharat, a well known Marathi media house.
A police officer suddenly arrived at Mumbai Tarun Bharat’s stall and tried to take Mr Somesh Kolge, the journalist and web sub-editor of MTB in custody. Mr.Kolge and others present there asked why is he being arrested. The officer said that this is by way of preventive measure and they are taking Mr Kolge in custody for enquiry. After everybody asked questions and the officer failed to give any logical justification, the officer backed down.
Interestingly, Mumbai Tarun Bharat had earlier asked questions to Fr D’Britto about his stand on forced conversions and various other issues. They had also published an ‘open letter’ to the priest asking him to clarify some issues. This attempt to arrest their journalist seems to have been done with the intention to silence those who ask logical questions. People are hoping that Father D’Britto will give answers to all these questions. People are hoping that he will preside over the Sammelan as a free-thinking writer and not as a catholic priest working to further the church’s agenda.
Maharashtra’s Mahavikas Aghadi govt must answer why the police are trying to silence the journalists. The govt that supports even the violent student protests must stand up for citizens asking questions without disrupting the peace.