The book ‘Fractured Freedom’ is an autobiography of Kobad Gandhi’s difficult journey so far. This is the story of his wife Anuradha and Kobad Gandhi’s life so far. Working for the underprivileged, marginalized. From the book, it is understood that the aim of his life is to promote more human values, social justice should reach the grassroots of the society. He has presented Gandhi’s previous life, past memories, experiences in prison and custody in the form of a book.
Kobad was portrayed as a ‘Doon School-educated, London-based Naxalite leader’. Naxalism was a big topic of discussion at that time. The image of the man in this movement was considered to be similar to the figure of Robin Hood.Kobad has so far served more than ten years in various prisons across India. He has written about his days in jail, his experiences with the Indian law, police system during this long period. Kobad was arrested in 2009. He was sentenced to ten years as the main leader of the Maoists. He was 62 years old at the time of the sentence. Even when he was sent to jail, he was suffering from various physical ailments. All the allegations leveled against them could not be proved. Ultimately, he was acquitted. But in this judicial process ten years of his life were spent in jail. ‘
Kobad Gandhi’s book in English titled ‘Fractured Freedom’ was published and discussed and this book also sold well and deserved readership. A year ago, Kobad Gandhi’s book was translated into Marathi by Angha Lele and Marathi readers also picked it up. A few days ago, the Maharashtra government announced the award for this translation and brought the book back into the limelight. Both the writer Kobad Gandhi and the translator Angha Lele were felicitated. Then suddenly the Maharashtra government woke up and announced the cancellation of the award given to the book. It was argued that the author has glorified Naxalists in this book and the government cannot support it. Along with the announcement of the cancellation of the award, the committee that recommended the book was also disbanded. The government says that the responsibility of the committee was to bring to the attention of the government that Naxalists have been glorified in this book!
Due to this action of the government, there is strong criticism from the Marathi literary world. Many famous writers have also refused to accept awards related to literature in Marathi language. Literary writers like Pragya Pawar, Sharad Baviskar, Anand Karandikar, Suhas Palashikar have also resigned from the government committee. Opponents of the government’s action see this move as an authoritarian attitude of the government. Many remember the Emergency in which writers were denied the right to speak their minds.
Undoubtedly, freedom of expression is a constitutionally granted right to every citizen of the country and no government that believes in democratic values can do this. The process of resigning expressing displeasure with the Maharashtra government is still going on. There is also the question of whether the book Fractured Freedom really glorifies Naxalism and advocates violent action. It is true that Kobad Gandhi, the author of the book, was once influenced by Maoism. He was also arrested and jailed for 10 years for encouraging Naxalite violence. The court then acquitted him. He wrote this book only after his release from jail and in this book he criticizes Naxalism, not praise it. It is also an irony that the author was expelled from their organization by the Maoists for writing the book for which the award has been announced for promoting Maoism. It was felt that this book was defaming the Maoist movement!
It must also be highlighted here that Kobad Gandhi never hid his sympathy for the struggle of the Dalits and the underprivileged. Both he and his wife the late Anuradha are active in defending the rights of the underprivileged, Dalits, but both have maintained that they do not support violent action. In the 60s-70s, the agitation for the protection of the rights of Dalits and tribals is known to have started from Naxalbari places. Although the movement later included people who justified violent action to achieve their goals, many who were originally sympathetic to the movement remained in favor of non-violent struggle. He should be counted among such people, says Kobad Gandhi.
Kobad Gandhi also states that his memoir is based on his experiences during his 10 years in prison. At the same time, they also say that their aim is to end social inequality. To end this disparity, the goals of the struggle have to be changed and instead of the struggle for equality, they have to struggle for the happiness of all. This struggle should be for the happiness, freedom and good values of all.
However, today the people of the country want that the disadvantaged and backward people get equal and adequate opportunities for development, but this country cannot accept Naxalite violence. Kobad Gandhi is also saying the same.
He believes that he has written the story of his experiences in prison in his book, trying to explain it to the people he met in prison. This effort should not be considered anti-national.
But the issue here is the government’s attitude towards literature and expression. Anagha Lele is the first to receive an award for her translation. Translation is an art and a creation. Looking at it that way, the cancellation of the award does not seem logical at all. It is also important to understand that Maharashtra has a glorious tradition in terms of literature and culture. Literary people are treated with special respect here. Politicians have their place in society, but politicians do not become decision makers just because they are politicians. Politicians don’t sit on the stage in literary conferences in Maharashtra, they are seated in the audience. Just because they are in power, they do not get the right to issue decrees about literature and literature.
Another thing is that giving awards to literary genres by the government does not mean that the government is obliging anyone. These awards are given through expert committees.
The Marathi translation of Fractured Freedom qualified for the award by an expert committee. The award was certainly announced by the government, but it alone does not and should not award a particular government or a political party sitting in the government. It is the responsibility of every citizen to keep the government alert about their duty.
Democratic values demand that the right to freedom of expression be protected which is essential to democracy.
Vikas Parasram Meshram is a journalist