In a first, farm widow Vaishali S. Yede on Friday evening inaugurated the controversy-ridden 92nd Akhil Bharatiya Marathi Sahitya Sammelan (ABMSS), amid a protest by a section of invitees.
"This is the first time that a non-literary personality who represents the peasantry of this region has been invited to inaugurate the 92nd ABMSS," Vidarbha Sahitya Sangh President Manohar Mhaisalkar told IANS shortly before the inaugural.
All eyes were on the ABMSS event since last Sunday when the parent body, Akhil Bharatiya Marathi Sahitya Mahamandal (ABMSM) abruptly withdrew its invitation to renowned English writer Nayantara Sahgal to inaugurate the 92nd conference.
The raging controversy resulted in top Marathi literary figures declining invites to replace Sahgal for the inaugural, other invitees boycotting the ABMSS, culminating in the resignation of ABMSM President Shripad Joshi three days ago.
Though the inaugural function, which was skipped by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, passed off without hassles, a group of invitees entered the heavily guarded venue sporting masks of Sahgal and sat in the audience.
The security personnel requested them to remove the masks after registering their protest, but when they didn't, they were escored out of the venue before the speeches of the dignitaries started, including the 92nd ABMSS presidential speech by Aruna R. Dhere.
Cancelling his earlier plans, Fadnavis stayed away from the inaugural as he was busy with the BJP National Executive in New Delhi, but there are indications he may address the 3-day literary meet later this week.
Yede, 28, who was married at the age of 19 into a poor farmer's family of Rajur village which tried to eke out an existence from a small three-acre plot.
In 2011, her debt-burdened husband Sudhakar suddenly committed suicide leaving her with two minor sons, and she currently serves in an aanganwadi to support her family.
Yede's life story, similar to many other farm-widows of Vidarbha, was featured in a play, 'Tervah' in which she played the lead role, and all other actors were also farm widows.
In her inaugural speech, Yede urged the farmers and tribals not to resort to suicides, but to tackle life's challenges headlong, as she had been struggling since her husband ended his life eight years ago, when she had a five-year-old son and pregnant with her second son.
Meanwhile, Mhaisalkar said that the ABMSM Vice-President Vidya Deodhar from Telangana will be the new acting President in place of Joshi, till the new chief is elected after three months.
( 426 Words)