‘Insulted’ Bengali Writer Returns Award As CM Mamata Banerjee Gets ‘Literary’ Honour

New Delhi: Feeling “insulted” by the move to give a literary award to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Bengali writer and folk culture researcher Ratna Rashid Banerjee has returned an award given to her by the Paschimbanga Bangla Academy. Earlier on Tuesday, she returned the ‘Annada Shankar Smarak Samman’ with which she was honoured in 2019, PTI reported. Rashid Banerjee in a letter to Paschimbanga Bangla Academy chairman Bratya Basu claimed that the award has become a “crown of thorns” for her in the wake of its decision to confer a new literary award to the Chief Minister on Rabindranath Tagore’s birth anniversary.

“In the letter, I have informed them about my decision to return the award with immediate effect,” Rashid Banerjee told the news agency in an exclusive conversation.

“As a writer, I feel insulted by the move to give a literary award to the CM,” she added.

Stating “it will set a bad precedent”, Rashid Banerjee said: “The statement of the Academy praising the relentless literary pursuit of the honourable chief minister is a travesty of truth.”

“We admire and respect the CM for her political battle, the massive mandate she got from people to rule the state for three terms. We had voted for her,” said the author, who has penned over 30 books of articles and short stories.

“But I cannot equate her contribution to politics with the claim that she worked for the cause of literature. I am not aware of,” she added.

Rashid Banerjee further said the Chief Minister could have shown maturity by not accepting the award after it was announced by Paschimbanga Bangla Academy chairman Bratya Basu in her presence.

Earlier on Monday, Basu had said the Bangla Academy has decided to “reward those who are working tirelessly for the betterment of literature as well as other sectors of society”.

The award introduced this year was announced for the Chief Minister’s book ‘Kabita Bitan’ – a collection of over 900 poems – at the state government organised programme to celebrate Tagore’s birth anniversary on Monday.

The Chief Minister’s book was released at the 2020 International Kolkata Book Fair.

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