Left leaning Odia poets abuse Goddess Sita

Over past several weeks, Ramayana fever took over the entire country with national broadcaster Doordarshan re-airing the serial by Ramanand Sagar on the epic. With COVID-19 preventive lockdown in place, families were provided with a purpose to come close to each other once again over the age-old but evergreen epic of India. However, amid all this, a few Left leaning poets and intellectuals from Odisha were spotted making controversial and apparently abusive remakes on Goddess Sita on social media. This invited a major backlash on social media from people who felt hurt by the remarks.

The matter came into light after senior journalist Saswat Panigrahi shared screenshots of multiple social media posts made by several “left leaning” Odia language poets. “I have come across some Odia writers, including big names, hurling abuses at Godess Sita,” Panigrahi wrote on his Facebook timeline.

On 27th of April, Sahitya Academy Academy award winning poet Rajendra Kishore Panda had shared a poem about Goddess Sita on his Facebook timeline which roughly translates as, “You cherished for Ravana’s agressive sexual advances in his Ashoka Bana. But still you emerged blame free so effortlessly with your chasity intact in the Agni Pariksha. Worthy you are not of any one’s trust.”

As people started protesting against the remarks made by Panda, another left leaning poet Kedar Mishra rushed into Panda’s support saying “Are poets contractors of your political thoughts?”

Other left leaning people also soon rallied behind Panda to defend him. Pradeep Kumar Panda, another poet, to voice support, shared his highly controversial poem ‘Ramnavami’ in which he wondered why Sita, the protagonist of his poem, didn’t have a “good a**.” Whereas poetess and self styled feminist Subhashree Subhamita Mishra, went on to claim that Goddess Sita was “leading the life of a prostitute.”

All these poets and their supporters sought to justify the apparent controversial poems on Hindu religious figures in the name of “poetic interpretation.” However to counter this argument, Saswat Panigrahi issued an open challenge to both Rajendra Kishore Panda and Kedar Mishra to make similar interpretations on scriptures and figures of other religions. But instead of making any responses to it, both of them reportedly blocked the senior journalist on social media platforms.

“Instead of accepting my challenge, both of them have unfriended me and blocked me in Facebook. This is how the Leftists take open challenge. So intolerant they and their ilk are,” Saswat Panigrahi said. The journalist has called for the arrest of the guilty and demanded that Panda should be stripped off his Sahitya academy award. He also wondered that if columnist Abhijit Aiyar Mitra can be arrested and kept in jail for over 40 days for allegedly disrespecting Odia culture and traditions, then why the same treatment must not be meted out to Panda as well.

Meanwhile an FIR has already been lodged against Rajendra Kishore Panda and various organizations including Akhil Bharatiya Adhivakta Parishad (ABAP) are mulling further action. Speaking to SatyaVijayi, advocateDebashish Tripathi of ABAP said, “This is a serious and punishable offence under sections 295 A/ 294 of IPC and also under section 76 of the Information and Technology Act, 2000. We are going to proceed with this legally and take proper action against them.

Rajendra Kishore Panda is a recepant of the prestigious Central Sahitya Akademi award for his poetry collection ‘Sailakalpa’ in 1985. He was a 1967 batch IAS officer.