Sahitya Akademi in Hindi: HRD min Nishank figures in final list; winner Anamika’s book not there in Akademi 

Two of 3 jury members for Sahitya Akademi award in Hindi conceded they haven’t read Nishank’s book. The question remains, how then it reached to the top, making space among literary heavy weights

Sahitya Akademi  in Hindi: HRD min Nishank figures in final list; winner Anamika’s book not there in Akademi 


Union HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhariyal “Nishank” made a surprise entry into the final list of prestigious Sahitya Akademi Award for Hindi this year, NH has learnt.

It may be noted here that the Union Education Minister has been reportedly accused of possessing fake degrees and against whom a petition was filed before the President of India in August 2019, demanding that the minister’s “oath” be declared null and void since he prefixed his name with “Doctor” despite not holding a proper earned degree which would entitle him to use the honorific.

The Award, however, was finally conferred to the well-known Hindi poet/scholar Anamika for her collection of poems “Tokri Mein Digant” published by Rajkamal in 2014. Ironically, the book for which Anamika was conferred the second highest literary award in Hindi was not available at Sahitya Akademi’s library.  Nishank’s book for which he was considered for the Award was also not available in the library.

Nishank, who claims to have penned more than 75 books, has never been regarded as a literary heavyweight capable enough to be included in the race for the prestigious literary award, despite the fact that he has been published by many prestigious journals. His making place among the last 13 finalists for the Award shocked many in the Hindi literary world.

Sahitya Akademi  in Hindi: HRD min Nishank figures in final list; winner Anamika’s book not there in Akademi 

A description of his book “Bhartiya Sanskriti Sabhyata Aivam Parampara” available on the online selling platform reads, “This collection is an ocean of pearls which cannot be combined into one. In this book some of these pearls have been woven in a book like garland.” Surprisingly, the book is neither available on online selling platforms nor easily available in bookstores.

This reporter spent an entire afternoon searching Akademi’s shelves for the book written by Anamika as well as other finalists’ books in the library including that by Nishank. It was intriguing to know that most of the books which Akademi contemplated upon for the award, were not available in Akademi’s own library. The manager, following my queries, however regretted unavailability and promised that he will soon place an order for me.

A source familiar with the functioning of the Akademi said both the books are in the process of being republished and redistributed in the market after the awards were announced a few days ago. “One can imagine the level of corruption in such Akademies run by the government for the promotion of art and culture. How can the Akademi not have the book it confers or considers giving awards to? It is scandalous. You can understand how these awards are managed and manipulated,” he pointed out while requesting for anonymity.

Sahitya Akademi  in Hindi: HRD min Nishank figures in final list; winner Anamika’s book not there in Akademi 
Sahitya Akademi  in Hindi: HRD min Nishank figures in final list; winner Anamika’s book not there in Akademi 

Interestingly, two of the three members-jury have accepted on record that they have not read Nishank’s book. We spoke to Chitra Mudgal and Ramvachan Roy – both members of the jury –for their comments on the issue.

Roy who is an MLC from the ruling Janta Dal United (JDU) in Bihar, cut the call abruptly when I asked him about Nishank’s credibility as a Hindi writer. We asked Roy, “Being a jury member, have you read the Nishank’s book?” Roy who retired as a professor of Hindi, cut the call, saying that he is in a programme

Mudgal who herself won the Akademi for her novel ‘Post Box No. 203, Naalasopara’ in 2019 said, “As a jury I had to pen down my thoughts on the pages of the last four-five books. I have written my opinion on Anamika’s book of poetry but not Nishank’s book”. When asked about Nishank’s literary credibility, she said, “He has been writing for many years and has been published by Mamta Kalia in Gyanodaya.”

When countered with the question, “Are writers not morally bound to return or refuse the awards given by this government, given the overall socio-cultural-political situation?” Mudgal replied, “There shouldn’t be politics. Sahitya Akademi Awards is not a sarkari but janta ka award. It is given on people’s money.” We could not contact the third member of the jury – K L Verma for his comment.

According to sources, a team of around 100 people work in the Award Department all through the year to find out the best writer in every language.

Hindi has the biggest team comprising of about 20 people, the source confided. According to the procedure, the Ground Council (GC) prepares the first list. After that, the Executive Council (EC) deliberates and debates on books. Then the final list is prepared and sent to the jury members for their opinion along with a copy of the shortlisted books.

“It is a very secret and lengthy process. Usually on an average 100-150 titles are submitted in important languages. Of them 10-15 or maximum 20 selected for the final round,” the source said.

Nishank’s bio data published in GoI portal claims that “his books have been translated into every Indian and many foreign languages. More than 15 countries had honoured him. Our country is constantly benefiting from such an honourable Education Minister.”

Recently his story ‘Muawaja’ (compensation) was published in ‘Hans’ – a left leaning monthly literary magazine founded by Munshi Premchand. Late Rajendra Yadav, who is credited for bringing Dalit and women’s issues in to mainstream Hindi discourse, had relaunched the magazine in 1986.

Our efforts to solicit response from the Akademi went in vain as we were told that the Akademi does not have a PRO hence, only the secretary can respond. We have mailed a questionnaire to the secretary. NH will update the story as when we get their response.

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