Literature not a tool for political publicity
The literary community in Kerala is up in arms against the Kerala Sahitya Akademi’s decision to carry a logo marking the second anniversary of the LDF government on the cover of 30 books it published. The books included a collection of poems by acclaimed writers like K A Jayaseelan and Dr M Leelavati, and carried an insignia at the top of the cover which read, “Stronger, with our hands joined: the second anniversary of Pinarayi Vijayan government.”
It was an unprecedented move; naturally, it has invited sharp criticism from across the social spectrum. Some writers have taken to social media to voice their objections, asserting that no book should bear the government’s advertisement. They even called for the withdrawal of publication contracts that allowed government advertisements on book covers.
As the issue snowballed into a controversy, Akademi secretary C P Aboobacker came up with a justification. According to him, the books were published as part of the 100-day development programme on the second anniversary of the LDF government. He explained that the logo distinguished the books as they were released on a special occasion. But that argument did not hold water as Akademi president and noted poet K Satchidanandan came out against it. In a Facebook post, he said that if the publication of the books was to mark the government’s second anniversary, it should have been carried on the second page, or the matter could have been simply mentioned at the time of their launch. “Since governments can fall and books will always remain, the Akademi has the responsibility to be more careful in such matters,” he wrote.
This is not a standalone issue involving a few book covers. Rather, this is symptomatic of the rot creeping into the system, and the overt politicisation happening in cultural spaces. The government may financially support the activities of all the academies engaged in cultural and literary activities, but that does not mean they have to be the publicity vehicles of successive governments. These developments point fingers at the increasing instances of self-governing institutions becoming tools in the hands of political sycophants. This kind of action will have far-reaching consequences. As Satchidanandan correctly said, governments may come and go, but books will always be there. And that is something everyone should keep in mind.