Grant withheld for lit meet over choice of president

Grant withheld for lit meet over choice of president

Chikkamagaluru district Kannada Sahitya Parishat’s (KSP) decision to hold the two-day 16th district-level Kannada literary meet at Sringeri on January 10 and 11, violating the KSP central committee’s directions, has stirred up a controversy.

The issue has brought questions of political and ideological interventions, cultural autonomy and freedom of expression in literary affairs to the fore.

Writers Baraguru Ramachandrappa, Chandrashekhar Patil, Purushothama Bilimale and former minister B T Lalitha Naik have condemned the government’s directions to KSP to withhold Rs 5 lakh grant for the meet.

They sharply criticised KSP president Manu Baligar’s directions to district unit president Ashok Kundur to postpone the meet. 

Ignoring the directions, the unit has decided to hold the meet using donations from writers. The police have denied permission to the unit to take out the customary procession.  

Naxal Virodhi Horata Samiti and a section of the unit’s members have organised Sringeri Chalo on January 10 to protest against the meet.

“We’ve neither erred nor indulged in anti-government or anti-Kannada activities. We’ve followed guidelines to select the president. Why should we postpone or change the president,” Kundur asked.

The government had no control over the grants once released to the KSP. District units received grants from the KSP, not from the government, he said.

Baligar told DH,”I leave it to the public to decide if it is justified to hold the meet violating the Parishat’s directions.”

He clarified, “The Parishat isn’t opposed to the personality selected as the president, but to the violation of the government’s directions. The directions should not be violated if its grants are used. The unit may hold the meet using donations from the public.”

The KSP suggested to hold the meet after three months in view of the ‘boiling situation’, he said. “I’ve withheld release of the grants, but not refused them,” he stressed.

Lalitha said, “Grants aren’t sought from C T Ravi’s pocket, but from the government. He is a minister and should respect the KSP’s dignity.” Baraguru said the money didn’t belong to the government, but to tax-payers. 

Prof B P Donur, a cultural critic, said the causes for such controversies should be addressed. Kundur considers ideological conflicts and local issues as responsible for the controversy.

The epicentre of the controversy is Kalkuli Vittal Hegde, a leftist. Hegde’s selection as the president did not go down well with right-wing activists who reportedly pressured Ravi to block the meet. Quoting ‘certain’ violations, Ravi directed Baligar not to release grants.

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