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Krishna Baldev Vaid denied Shalaka Samman award: literary fraternity protests

The literary fraternity here is irked because veteran US-based Hindi author Krishna Baldev Vaid, who was nominated for the prestigious Shalaka Samman award, has been denied the honour because of alleged obscenity in his novels.

His two novels that have created controversy are "Nasreen" and "Bimal Urf Jayen to Jayen Kahan".

The Delhi government's Hindi Academy, chaired by Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, had nominated the 83-year-old writer for the 2008-2009 Shalaka Samman, its highest literary award.

But Congress functionary Purushottam Goel, in a letter to the chief minister, alleged that the books "contained obscene and graphic material".

The move has ruffled the literary fraternity in the capital.

Ashok Vajpeyi, chairman of the Lalit Kala Akademy, said the chief minister had "denied the writer his freedom of expression".

The denial of the award to Vaid, Vajpeyi told the media, "was an insult to a prominent writer and the trampling of the Hindi Academy because the decision to honour Vaid was taken by a body of experts and was superseded by bureaucrats and politicians".

"Politicians should not interfere in literary awards," Vajpeyi said.

Vaid was born in India in 1927. He was educated in India and at Harvard University, where he obtained a Ph.D. in 1961.

He has a faculty post at New York University. The writer has published several novels and collections in Hindi, and has served as his own English translator. His publications, include "Steps in Darkness", "Bimal in Bog", "Silence and Other Stories", "Diary of A Maidservant". He is regarded as one of the most important and controversial Hindi writers.

The chief minister had approved the recommendation on March 27, 2009, and later quietly withdrew the award following Goel's complaint.

"Bimal Urf Jayen To Jayen Kahan", first published in 1974 when Vaid was teaching at Brandeis University in the US, was spurned by a number of publishers because the author had allegedly used obscene language and the book contained graphic passages.

Well-known Hindi writer Purushottam Agarwal, said Vaid had been refused the award for "extra-literary reasons" and it reflected poorly on the Hindi Academy.

"The academy has violated its code of ethics," he said.

Agarwal, another nominee, has refused to accept his own award till the time Vaid is kept out of the list.

Poet Gagan Gill, another awardee, has also lodged a strong protest. "My situation is very awkward," she said. "I wish I didn't have to choose between protesting and receiving the award," she said.

Poet and critic Pankaj Singh, another awardee who has come out against the exclusion of Vaid, said the decision amounted to humiliation of eminent people on the jury who had recommended the award.

"I believe that if more writers and poets speak up, they will have an impact," he said. (IANS)

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