No state role in FIR against poet, publisher: Parrikar

Panaji, Oct 20 (IANS) Under attack for allegedly targeting the author of a poetry anthology, “Sudhir Sukta”, which is critical of Goa’s elite Gaud Saraswat Brahmin caste, and scrapping the state award for which it was shortlisted, Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar on Friday said his government had no role in the FIR filed against the poet.

Author of the anthology Vishnu Wagh is also a former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislator.

Parrikar, clarifying for the first time since the controversy over Wagh’s book erupted two months back, said a section of the media did not project the issue properly and even suggested that there could be vested interests involved in stoking the controversy.

“Some people are trying to give it a different colour,” Parrikar told a press conference on Friday, distancing his government from the FIR against Wagh and the book publisher Hema Naik, which was filed by a women activist.

“As far as the FIR (is concerned), it has nothing to do with government, though some media outlets at the national level tried to hint that the government has done something.

“We have to be very clear. I believe in freedom of expression, one can write anything, but everything is subject to decisions by apex court and law,” Parrikar said, adding that as far filing of FIRs is concerned, the police followed the procedure laid down by the Supreme Court of India.

The FIR was filed by activist Auda Viegas, who alleged that some of the poems were disrespectful to women.

“An FIR cannot be avoided. You go into the details, find out if law has been broken and take appropriate action. Based on that police on their own took a decision…and I do not interfere with investigating officers,” Parrikar said.

“Sudhir Sukta” is a collection of poems penned by Wagh, a former BJP MLA from St. Andre constituency, which took graphics and at times raunchy potshots at the state’s influential Goud Saraswat Brahmin community, and brought to fore faultlines in Goa’s relatively insidious, but omnipresent caste hierarchy.

The book was incidentally released by Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar in 2013, who also hails from the same community.

The book was shortlisted for an award by the Goa Konkani Academy, but two weeks back, after the controversy emerged, the state government scrapped all more than 21 state awards, including the one for which Sudhir Sukta was shortlisted.

Parrikar now claims that a host of state literary awards were cancelled because of conflict of interest issues and not because of the controversial anthology of poems.

“In this case, we found that there was substantial conflict of interest. Therefore, full process has been declared null and void,” Parrikar said, there were instances where those writers whose books had been shortlisted for awards, were also involved in the selection process for the state awards.

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