NEW DELHI: Eminent Kannada writer and Jnanpith award winner Chandrashekhara Kambar was elected president of Sahitya Akademi on Friday. Kambar, the third Kannadiga to head the Indian Academy of Letters since its inception, defeated his closest opponent and Odia writer Pratibha Ray in a secret ballot.
Of the 89 members of the general council who voted in Monday’s elections, 56 voted in favour of Kambar, while 29 members voted for Ray as president. The third contender for the top job, Marathi writer Bhalchandra Nemade, could only get four votes.
Conventionally, the vice president of the Sahitya Akademi is elevated to the post of president. However, this is not the first time an election to the post was necessitated. What writers find discomforting this time, though, is a repeat of the 2003 polls where partisan politics — a ‘Left verus Non-Left’ theme — has resurfaced and taken centrestage at the Akademi.
Back in 2003, the presidential contest was between the Bharatiya Jnanpith award-winning writer, Mahasweta Devi, and outgoing vice-president of the Akademi, Gopi Chand Narang. Mahasweta Devi, despite her stature as a doyen of literature and of the work she had done among tribals, was defeated during the elctions. Urdu critic Narang, on the other hand, had won 56 of the 94 votes that were polled.
While the non-Left had triumphed then, murmurs within the academy of letters on Monday suggested Kambar’s victory was a reassertion of Sahitya Akademi’s relative autonomy in comparison to the other cultural bodies that have allegedly been infiltrated by right-leaning administrators.
Shortly after being declared President of the Sahitya Akademi, Kambar, also the first vice-chancellor of Kannada University in Hampi, said he was looking forward to providing a platform to regional languages in India and to counter the eurocentric thurst on Literature. Kambar also thanked outgoing president Vishwanath Prasad Tiwari and said he will remain committed to taking Sahitya Akademi to greater heights.
Over the last few years, Sahitya Akademi has been at the centre of considerable controversy, including the ‘award wapasi’ campaign where writers returned their Sahitya Akademi awards as a mark of protest against the rising culture of intolerance in the country.
News Source: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/education/news/sahitya-akademi-gets-a-new-head-even-as-elections-take-political-overtones/articleshow/62890468.cms