From the Viewsroom



Radheshyam Jadhav


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Updated on


October 08, 2019


Published on


October 08, 2019

The selection of a Christian priest to chair a literary meet has sparked off an unpleasant row

An unseemly literary controversy has broken out in Maharashtra. Akhil Bhartiya Marathi Sahitya Mahamandal, the apex literary body in Maharashtra, has been organising the annual Marathi literary meet for 92 years. The Mahamandal and its literary meets have been dominated by upper caste writers. The list of writers presiding over these meets and their selectors reflect this reality. However, a new wave of writers from other communities are seeking representation in such literary forums. Last year, the Mahamandal selected noted Marathi author, environmental activist Father Francis D’Britto, to preside over its 93rd All India Marathi Literary Meet to be held at Osmanabad in January.

Father D’Britto, 75, hails from Vasai and is a popular well-known Sahitya Akademi award winning writer. However, the Mahamandal officials received threatening calls questioning the selection. Upper caste body leaders openly denounced the selection, calling Father D’Britto a Christian missionary and opponent of majority religion and culture. The priest’s felicitation by Mahamandal in Pune was held amidst tight police security.

Though many literary voices preferred to keep mum on these developments, others, led by linguist Ganesh Devy strongly came in support of the Father. While trying to quell the parallel socio-cultural narratives, the protectors of hegemonic culture in Maharashtra have taken every possible effort to discredit and defame alternative cultural discourse. A Christian priest occupying the chair of literary meet has not gone down well in dominant literary circles. The challenge ahead is to ensure smooth functioning of the annual literary meet.

The opposition to Father D’Britto’ election to the Mahamandal is linked not just to the rising tide of religious intolerance, but also to an earlier history of upper caste domination in Maharashtra’s literary circles and the Phule-Ambedkarite challenge to the hegemonic discourse of the day. Inspired by Jotirao and BR Ambedkar, Dalit literary movement in Maharashtra challenged upper caste dominance in all walks of life, including literature and culture. This has created a vibrant genre of resistance prose, poetry, film and music.

The writer is Deputy Editor with BusinessLine

Published on


October 08, 2019