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This article was first published 1 year ago  » News » Poet Vajpeyi opts out of cultural fest over censorship, organisers deny claim

Poet Vajpeyi opts out of cultural fest over censorship, organisers deny claim

Source: PTI
February 24, 2023 15:22 IST
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Poet Ashok Vajpeyi on Friday said he won't participate in a cultural festival as he was scheduled to because the organisers asked him not to read poems critical of the government. A spokesperson from the Rekhta Foundation, which is  co-organiser of the session, denied his claim that he was being censored.

IMAGE: Poet Ashok Vajpeyi (right) at the book launch of Armenian Genocide: The Sin of the Ottoman Empire, New Delhi, April 24, 2023. Photograph: ANI Photo

Vajpeyi was scheduled to attend a poetry session on Friday at the three-day Arth Culture Fest, organised by Zee, at Sunder Nursery with other poets, including Anamika, Badri Narayan, Dinesh Kushwaha and Manav Kaul. Rekhta Foundation is collaborating with the organisers on the poetry session.

"I won't be taking part in the culture fest organised by Arth and Rekhta because I have been asked to read such poems that do not directly critique politics or the government. This type of censorship is unacceptable," Vajpeyi wrote in Hindi on Facebook.


Vajpeyi told PTI later that he had planned to read seven "chorus", a literary device first associated with Greek theatre in which performers comment on the situation unfolding in a drama.

"A person had contacted me from Rekhta and asked if I would be reading any poems with political connotations. I told them how can poetry be apolitical so they asked me to refrain from it," the 82-year-old poet said.

"I do not stand for this type of censorship, that is why I will not be joining," he added.

A Rekhta Foundation spokesperson denied Vajpeyi's claim and said neither Rekhta nor the organisers at Zee had made such demands from any of the poets in the session.

"We did ask everyone about what they were planning to recite at the session, but that was just so we could add it to their introduction at the programme. We or Zee never told them to not read anything political. If it were true, we would have asked the same from everyone else," Satish Gupta, head of communications at Rekhta Foundation, told PTI.

Gupta also clarified that Rekhta Foundation is only organising the poetry session in collaboration and not the entire cultural festival, which begins on Friday.

The culture festival claims to celebrate Indian culture, heritage, history, literature, music, dance, and art by bringing together a diverse group of writers, actors, scholars and performers.

Vajpeyi, who was chairperson of Lalit Kala Akademi from 2008-2011, was among those who returned their Sahitya Akademi Awards in 2015 to protest the ”assault on right to freedom of both life and expression”.

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