Senior Journalist seeks withdrawal of Sahitya Akademi award of Odia poet for vile poem on Ma Sita

Trouble appears to be mounting for Odia poet Rajendra Kishore Panda over his offensive poem about Goddess Sita. Delhi based Senior journalist and researcher Saswat Panigrahi in a letter to the Sahitya Akademi has urged the institution to withdraw the award which they had conferred upon the poet stating that his work hurts religious sentiments of crores of Hindus across the country. Panigrahi in his letter argued that a name like that of Rajendra Kishore Panda being associated with Sahitya Akademi only brings bad repute to the esteemed Institution.

“If Dr Panda continues to identify himself as a Central Sahitya Akademi awardee, it will certainly affect the image of the central institution for literary dialogue, publication and promotion,” the letter reads.

The entire controversy began when on 27th April, Panda published a poem of his on Facebook timeline which contained several objectionable lines regarding Hindu Godess Sita. “Ashoka Vana re tame icchipara Ravana ra balatkara, agini parikshya re ene hoipara anayasha re uttirna. Tame kahari nuhan.” (In Ashok Vana, you were desirous of being raped by Ravana, and yet you cleared the Agni Pariksha easily with your chastity intact. Worthy, you are not of anyone’s trust.)

Panigrahi in his letter to the Sahitya Akademi further accused Panda of instigating some other poets belonging to the “anti-culture lobby” to write abusive poems about Hindu gods and share them on social media. This, he said, “created a very disturbing trend which Odia literature has never witnessed.”

Once the matter snowballed into a major controversy in Odisha, the poet, however, tried to defend himself citing excuse of “metaphorical language.” He even claimed that he was “not referring to Sita of Ramayana”. This he claimed despite the fact his poem very clearly mentioned Ashoka Vana, Ravana and Agni pariksha.

He also reminded the Sahitya Akademi about the seriousness of the offense which Panda is an accused of. “Rajendra Panda’s Facebook post, which has hurt the sentiments of crores of Hindus, is a serious criminal offence under Section 295 (a) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and also under Section 76 of the Information Technology Act, 2000,” the letter reads.

“As many as 10 criminal cases are pending against him. The law, however, is yet to catch up with Dr Panda as he continues to go scot free by using his “highly influential status” of a Central Sahitya Akademi awardee and former senior bureaucrat to his rescue,” it further adds.

“Therefore, I would like to request the Sahitya Akademi to withdraw the coveted award from Rajendra Kishore Panda. I further request the Akademi to disassociate itself from Dr Panda in all its future activities,” Panigrahi says in the letter addressed to Mr. Chandrashekhara Kambara, the president of Sahitya Akademi.

Rajendra Kishore Panda was awarded the Sahitya Akademi award which is India’s highest literary honour – for his poetry collection ‘Saila Kalpa’ in the year 1985.