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After a tumultuous year during which it found itself battling controversy over 'Award Wapsi' by writers, Sahitya Akademi today kicked off its annual 'Festival of Letters' with a focus on tribal, oral and north- eastern literature.
The inaugural day of the six-day event saw a session on tribal language poetry featuring poets from across the country.
"Sahitya Akademi has done an excellent job. If the programme runs smoothly, it will be an annual stimulus to the writing zeal of writers and would-be writers," Odia poet and Akademi Fellow Manoj Das said at the inauguration of the festival.
About 40 writers had returned their awards to the Akademi in protest against what was seen as its "silence" in the wake of the murder of writer MM Kalburgi and the "communal" atmosphere in the country over the Dadri lynching incident.
On October 23 last year, passing a unanimous resolution appealing to the state and central governments to take steps to prevent such incidents, the Akademi had asked authors to take back their awards.
Asked about the issue, Das chose to respond in a lighter vein and said authors had returned their awards because the Akademi had bestowed it on them.
"Well, because they received the award, that's why they are returning it, Sahitya Akademi must be credited for having given the awards, otherwise they couldn't be in the news," he said.
He added that such literary events will help chronicle the history of Indian literature.
On its inaugural day, Akademi President Viswanath Prasad Tiwari praised the tribal poets and said the "so-called 'well- mannered' people living in the city had a thing or two to learn from the tribals". "I can't say that people here are the only ones who know etiquette, there are so many rapes happening here, have you ever heard of a rape in tribal areas," he said. Praising the tribal poets for their eloquence, Tiwari said it was difficult to completely translate one language into another as it was not possible to find the exact synonyms in a different language. "For instance, why should we translate 'Ramcharit Manas' into another language if it loses its essence," he said. Mrinal Miri, eminent scholar and educationist who inaugurated the poetry festival, spoke about various languages in the country and pointed to the existence of some languages, which in the absence of a word, borrowed the same from another language. Vyas Mani Tripathi, head of Hindi department at Jawaharlal Nehru Rajkiya Mahavidyalaya and a member of the general council of the Akademi, made the trip from Port Blair to get his hands on the books that were available for sale. "The books here are rare.
The event will see writers from 24 languages. This is a way to inspire writers and help them interact with each other," he said. An exhibition of books in several languages was also organised as part of the event while another exhibition highlights the achievements of the Akademi in the past year.