The Congress Monday said the move to cancel the Marathi Literary Meet inaugural invite to noted litterateur Nayantara Sahgal has exposed the "intolerant" face of the Devendra Fadnavis-led Maharashtra government.
A day after local organisers of the event, scheduled to be held in Yavatmal in east Maharashtra, announced their decision to withdraw the invitation, state Congress president Ashok Chavan said it was done at the behest of the chief minister and to ensure his "political security".
The Chief Minister's Office (CMO) Monday clarified that the decision on whom to invite for the meet is taken by the organisers and the state government has no role in it.
Chavan said the chief minister has issued a clarification, but has "not condemned" the withdrawal of the invite by organisers in Yavatmal.
He asked Fadnavis to invite Sahgal again "if the meet organisers had not cancelled the invitation under his pressure".
"This episode has exposed the intolerant face of the Fadnavis government...The chief minister conveniently distanced himself by issuing a clarification, but he did not condemn the organisers," a statement quoted Chavan as saying.
"Are these not the double standards? This shows what the organisers did (cancelling the invite) was at the behest of the chief minister," he said.
Chavan alleged Fadnavis would have found it difficult "to digest" thoughts of Sahgal, a Sahitya Akademi awardee who was at the forefront of the "awardwapsi" (return of awards) campaign in 2015.
"The organisers cancelled the invitation extended to Sahgal citing security issues. But the real reason is the political security of the chief minister," Chavan added.
The noted English-language author was supposed to inaugurate the 92nd Marathi Literary Meet on January 11 in the presence of Fadnavis.
In a press release issued Sunday, the working president of the literary meet's reception committee, Ramakant Kolte, said the organisers had decided to revoke Sahgal's invitation, "as a controversy has cropped up against her name and to avoid any untoward incident from those who threatened to derail the literary meet".
The move to rescind the invitation was criticised squarely by opposition leaders and authors.
Soon after the CMO clarification, Sahgal said she won't attend the meet now even if a fresh invite were to be sent to her.
Reacting to the row, Marathi author and feminist activist Dr Vidya Bal Monday appealed to authors to stay away from the literary meet.
"I have decided not to go to the conference and what I feel is that all the literary figures should boycott the meet so that the entire conference will crumble," she said in Pune.
Bal added that this is the way the organisers will get a "tight slap" in their face.
Condemning the development, another writer Vittal Wagh also called for a boycott.
"Rescinding Sahgal's invitation is not only her insult but it is insult of the entire literary tribe," he said.
Author Ashutosh Javdekar said the organisers should apologise and Sahgal be invited with full respect.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)