Nayantara Sahgal, 91, was to inaugurate the literary meet in Yavatmal on January 11.
Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray said that his party has no objection to noted author Nayantara Sahgal being invited to a literary meet in Maharashtra this week and apologised for "any convenience and strain". The decision to withdraw the invitation to the writer was taken after threats from certain groups to disrupt the function, the organisers said on Sunday.
"When in her (Nayantara Sahgal's) presence, our profound culture and traditions stand unveiled, it can become a medium to exhibit our culture to the rest of the world… We have no objection to Nayantara Sahgal and we wholeheartedly welcome her," Mr Thackeray said, saying that one of his local party workers had opposed Ms Sahgal's presence at the meet. Mr Thackeray said that he regretted the annoyance caused to the supporters of such literary events.
Ms Sahgal, 91, was to inaugurate the 92nd edition of the All India Marathi Literary Meet literary meet on January 11 in Yavatmal district. The invitation, however, was withdrawn after threats to disrupt the function if she attended the event.
The official stand of Maharashtra Navanirman Sena regarding the ongoing controversy pertaining to the presence of acclaimed writer Nayantara Sahgal at the 92nd Akhil Bhartiya Marathi Sahitya Sammelan pic.twitter.com/uQQx6u2V4o
— Raj Thackeray (@RajThackeray) January 7, 2019
She was at the forefront of the "award wapsi (return of the award)" campaign by the intelligentsia in 2015.
The literary meet organisers decided to drop Ms Sahgal's name to "avoid any untoward incident and in view of the controversy that has cropped up against her name". Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis too will be part of the event.
The opposition and authors condemned the decision to cancel the celebrated writer's invite.
Historian Ramachandra Guha tweeted, "The Maharashtra that fears the words of a ninety one year old woman writer is the Maharashtra of Godse and his mentors, not the Maharashtra of Ambedkar, Phule, Gokhale or Tilak."
Mumbai Congress chief Sanjay Nirupam alleging that it was done at the behest of the ruling BJP. "The decision of the organisers was taken at the behest of the BJP, the MNS is just a front. Literature should not surrender before politics. If a government is scared of writers, it means that its days are over," he said.
Maharashtra's Cultural Affairs Minister Vinod Tawde, however, said the state welcomed everyone.
"If someone had opposed Sahgal after her speech at the meet, then it could have been understood. It is not fair to oppose her completely. Maharashtra is a state that welcomes everyone to present their work," he said.
Noted author Aruna Dhere, who will preside over the event, also criticised the organisers for cancelling Ms Sahgal's invitation. Marathi author Sanjay Awate said he would boycott the literary meet as a mark of protest.
(With inputs from PTI)