A Bengali writer and folk culture researcher on Tuesday returned an award given to her by the Paschimbanga Bangla Academy to protest against its decision to confer a special award on Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for her contribution to the cause of literature.
Ratna Rashid Banerjee returned the ‘Annada Shankar Smarak Samman’ with which she was honoured by the Academy in 2019.
In a letter to the Academy Chairman Bratya Basu who is also the education minister, Banerjee claimed that the award has become a “crown of thorns” for her in the wake of its decision to confer a new literary award to the CM on the birth anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore.
“In the letter, I have informed them about my decision to return the award with immediate effect.
“As a writer, I feel insulted by the move to give a literary award to the CM. It will set a bad precedent. The statement of the Academy praising the relentless literary pursuit of the honourable chief minister is a travesty of truth,” Rashid Banerjee told PTI.
The award, introduced this year, was announced for the chief minister’s book, ‘Kabita Bitan’ a collection of over 900 poems, at the state government organised programme to celebrate the birth anniversary of Tagore on Monday. Though the CM was present at the event, the award was handed over to Basu on her behalf.
“We admire and respect the CM for her political battle, the massive mandate she got from people to rule the state for three terms. We had voted for her. But I cannot equate her contribution to politics with the claim that she worked for the cause of literature. I am not aware of,” Rashid Banerjee said.
She said the chief minister could have shown maturity by not accepting the award after it was announced by the Academy Chairman Bratya Basu in her presence, said the author who had penned over 30 books of articles and short stories.
She has also done research works on folk culture, including those of the marginalised sections of society.
“The Bangla Academy has decided to reward those who are working tirelessly for the betterment of literature as well as other sectors of society,” Basu had said on Monday.
The CM’s book, ‘Kabita Bitan’, was released at the 2020 International Kolkata Book Fair.
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