YAVATMAL: After the embarrassment over the withdrawal of noted author Nayantara Sahgal's invitation, organisers of a Marathi literary meet have decided to let a farmer's widow open the event, beginning in Yavatmal Friday.
Akhil Bharatiya Sahitya Mahamandal vice chairperson Vidya Deodhar made the announcement here Thursday.
"We have decided to inaugurate the literary meet at the hands of a woman who lost her husband to agricultural distress," she said.
The drought-prone Yavatmal district in Maharashtra is the 'epicentre' of farmers suicides, accounting for the maximum number of agrarian crisis-related deaths in the state.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis won't be attending the meet, the 92nd Akhil Bharatiya Marathi Sahitya Sammelan.
"Fadnavis won't be able to attend the literary meet," Yavatmal district guardian minister and meet organiser Madan Yerawar said.
"I appeal to authors and poets boycotting the event to rethink and attend the literary meet," the minister said.
Mahamandal president Shripad Joshi on Wednesday resigned following the controversy over the withdrawal of Sahgal's invitation to the literary meet.
Joshi had invited Sahgal as the chief guest and keynote speaker for the meet.
The invitation was revoked on Sunday after some workers of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) objected to it.
Amid flak by opposition leaders and authors over rescinding the invitation to Sahgal, the Chief Minister's Office (CMO) had Monday distanced itself from the controversy.
Soon after the CMO clarification, Sahgal had said she won't attend the meet now even if a fresh invite were to be sent to her.
The CMO said the decision on whom to invite for the meet is taken by the organisers and the state government has no role in it.
Many opposition leaders alleged the invitation was cancelled at the behest of the ruling BJP.
The CMO said the Mahamandal is an autonomous body and neither the CM nor the state government interfere in its functioning.
The Sharad Pawar-led NCP was not impressed by the government's statement and had said the invitation was cancelled "out of fear that Prime Minister Narendra Modi" would not like if Sahgal, niece of first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, attended the literary meet.
The noted English-language author was at the forefront of the 'award-wapsi' (returning of awards) campaign.
In 2015, several writers returned their awards to protest against what they described as "rising intolerance and growing assault on free speech" under the Modi government.
Historian Ramachandra Guha had said, "The Maharashtra that fears the words of a ninety one year old woman writer is the Maharashtra of Godse and his mentors, not the Maharashtra of Ambedkar, Phule, Gokhale or Tilak."
MNS chief Raj Thackeray had on Monday said he "deeply regretted' the inconvenience caused to supporters of such literary events by the action of a few of his men.