THRISSUR:The book launch of ‘Kaalatheetham’, the Malayalam translation of former President APJ Abdul Kalam’s final book ‘Transcendence: My Spiritual Experience with Pramukh Swamiji’, set to take place on Saturday, was cancelled following vociferous protests from several organisations like DYFI, AISF, Campus Front, RMP and Vidyarthi Koottayma at Sahitya Akademi in Thrissur.
The publishers of the translation, Current Books Thrissur manager K J Johnny, said that the book launch would not be held again. The function had snowballed into a controversy after the translator Sreedevi S Kartha alleged in a Facebook post on Friday that she was banned from the function on the basis of her gender. “Brahma Vihari Das, who arrived as a representative to Pramukh Swami, had demanded that he would not share the dais with a woman. Another demand was that the first three rows should also be devoid of feminine presence. I was informed of this by the publishers on 22nd or 23rd. It is deplorable that the they gave into such laughable demands,” said Sreedevi S Kartha, speaking to Express.
She added that she was not connected in any way to the protests at Sahitya Akademi. The Facebook post had gathered momentum and activists of various outfits assembled at the Sahitya Akademi Hall, breaking past the police ranks and dominating the dais with slogans around 11 am on Saturday.
Addressing mediapersons after the incident, Johny termed the incident a non-issue. “Translators are not normally invited to such occasions. We have no knowledge of any such demands from the Ashram, nor did we communicate any such direction to Sreedevi. We regret having caused any personal hurt,” he said, adding that the Swamis, who were due to arrive from Palakkad, were asked to skip the event. Prominent author MT Vasudevan Nair, who was due to inaugurate the launch, was also conspicuous in his absence. Arun Tiwari, who co-wrote the book with the late former President, left the venue when the function was announced cancelled and refused to respond to any queries.
Speaking to Express, Bhupendra Patil of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha in Mumbai said that it was a common practice that Swamijis maintained at least a distance of 25 to 30 feet from the opposite gender. “There are no discrepancies on the issue. It is clearly mentioned in the rules. If a Swami comes in touch with a woman, even a very small girl, he will have to observe a day’s fast,” he said. Brahma Vihari Das was set to arrive as a representative of Pramukh Swami.