Delhi-based journalist and researcher Saswat Panigrahi has written to Sahitya Akademi president Chandrashekhara Kambara requesting him to withdraw the Akademi award of Odia poet Dr Rajendra Kishore Panda for his vile poem insulting Mother Goddess Sita.
Panigrahi has also written a similar letter, on this matter, to Sahitya Akademi secretary Dr KS Rao.
It could be noted that Dr Panda while referring to Goddess Sita, in his April 27 Facebook post, had written, “Ashoka Vana re tame icchipara Ravana ra balatkara, agini parikshya re ene hoipara anayasha re uttirna. Tame kahari nuhan.” (In Ashok Vana, you were desirous of being raped by Ravana, and yet you cleared the Agni Pariksha easily with your chastity intact. Worthy, you are not of anyone’s trust.) This has invited a massive backlash from various quarters in the State.
Panigrahi, in his letter to Sahitya Akademi president, writes, “Panda’s Facebook post, which has hurt the religious sentiments of crores of Hindus, is a serious offence under Section 295 (a) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and also under Section 76 of the Information Technology Act.”
As many as 10 criminal cases are pending against Dr Panda for his Facebook poem on Goddess Sita. “The law, however, is yet to catch up with Dr Panda as he continues to go scot free by using his ‘highly influential status’ of a Central Sahitya Akademi awardee and former senior bureaucrat to his rescue,” Panigrahi wrote.
Emphasising that “literature is very much linked to culture” and it “can’t be used as an instrument against culture”, Panigrahi said, “Dr Panda has misused his poetic freedom by his vile and poisonous statement on Ma Sita”.
On his part the poet, however, maintains that “it was a metaphoric use”. “Now Dr Panda is hiding behind the babble of metaphor,” Panigrahi said.
Stating that Dr Panda has “hurt the sentiments of crores of Hindus and culture lovers of the country”, Panigrahi said the poet’s deed has “brought a cultural crisis”. Calling Panda’s facebook poem on Goddess Sita “vile” and “poisonous”, Panigrahi said the poet has committed an act of “cultural terrorism”.
Emphasising that Sahitya Akademi Award is India’s highest literary award, Panigrahi wrote, “If Dr Panda continues to
identify himself as a Sahitya Akademi awardee, it will certainly affect the image of the central institution for literary dialogue, publication and promotion.”
Apart from demanding the withdrawal of the coveted award from Panda, Panigrahi has also requested the Sahitya Akademi to “disassociate” itself from the poet in all its future activities.
Dr Panda, a 1967 batch IAS, is the recipient of Central Sahitya Akademi award for his poetry collection ‘Saila Kalpa’ in the year 1985.