Ashok Vajpeyi

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Ashok Vajpeyi
Ashok Vajpeyi.jpg
With his books at a seminar in IGNOU
Born 1941 (age 75–76)
Occupation Chairman, Lalit Kala Akademi India's National Academy of Arts (2008–2011), poet, essayist, literary-cultural critic
Language Hindi

Ashok Vajpeyi (Hindi: अशोक वाजपेयी) (born 1941) is an Indian poet in Hindi, essayist, literary-cultural critic, apart from being a noted cultural and arts administrator, and a former civil servant. He was chairman, Lalit Kala Akademi India's National Academy of Arts, Ministry of Culture, Govt of India, 2008–2011.[1][2] He has published over 23 books of poetry, criticism and art, and was awarded the Sahitya Akademi Award given by Sahitya Akademi, India's National Academy of Letters, in 1994 for his poetry collection, Kahin Nahin Wahin.[3][4] His notable poetry collections include, Shaher Ab Bhi Sambhavana Hai (1966), Tatpurush (1986), Bahuri Akela (1992), Ibarat Se Giri Matrayen, Ummeed ka Doosra Naam (2004) and Vivaksha (2006), besides this he has also published works on literary and art criticism: Filhal, Kuchh Poorvagrah, Samay se Bahar, Kavita ka Galp and Sidhiyan Shuru ho Gayi Hain. He is generally seen as part of the old Delhi-centric literary-cultural establishment consisting of bureaucrat-poets and academicians like Sitakanta Mahapatra, Keki Daruwalla, J.P.Das, Gopi Chand Narang, Indra Nath Choudhari and K.Satchidanandan.[5]

Career[edit]

Vajpeyi joined the Indian Administrative Services (IAS) in Madhya Pradesh (MP), in 1965. He was patronized by Indian National Congress leader Arjun Singh, and became the state's culture secretary when Singh became the Chief Minister of MP. As the culture secretary, he set up 11 cultural institutions, and made decisions regarding appointment of trustees and office-bearers of these institutions. This made him an influential figure within MP. In 1980s, he gained national recognition, starting with the establishment of Bharat Bhavan, which was inaugurated by prime minister Indira Gandhi. Vajpeyi lost his powerful position in MP, when Congress' rival Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in the state. In 1990, the Sunder Lal Patwa government transferred him to the state Revenue Board.[6]

In December 1991, Vajpeyi's mentor Arjun Singh became the HRD Minister in the Central Government. The next year, Singh made Vajpeyi the joint secretary in the Culture Department. Vajpeyi attracted criticism when his relatives were appointed to important positions. His sister-in-law Kirti Jain was formally appointed as the Director of the National School of Drama (NSD), although she had directed only one NSD play. His brother Udayan, who was earlier made the chairman of Asia Poetry at Bharat Bhavan, received a Sahitya Akademi fellowship. His father-in-law Nemichand Jain received a large grant from Ford Foundation, and saw a sudden increase the number of published works. His close friend and dancer Prerana Shrimali was sent to Festival d'Avignon, where she danced to the themes of his poems. In 1994, his 26-year-old son Kabir was appointed as an "eminent architect" by the Lalit Kala Akademi, but declined the post after negative media coverage. Vajpeyi denied allegations of nepotism or unfairly influencing these appointments. The same year, Vajpeyi received the Sahitya Akademi Award and the first Dayawati Modi Kavishekar Award. The juries allegedly comprised people who were close to him. Uday Prakash described him as "power broker disguised as a poet". Vajpeyi denied these allegations, and dismissed the criticism as personal attacks.[6]

Over the years he served Secretary of Culture, Union Ministry of Culture, and as Vice-Chancellor, Mahatma Gandhi Antarrashtriya Hindi Vishwavidyalaya; trustee, Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA); member, Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), and executive board member of the Sangeet Natak Akademi.[4] He has won the Dayavati Modi Kavi Shekhar Samman, 1994, and the Kabir Samman (2006).[4] His work has been translated into many Indian languages, besides in English, French, and Polish.[7] After being appointed a pro-tem Chairman of Lalit Kala Akademi India's National Academy of Arts, he was subsequently appointed as its regular chairman, in April 2008, till December 2011.[8]

After his retirement from IAS, he has lived in Delhi.[9]

On 7 October 2015 it was reported that Vajpeyi returned his Sahitya Akademi Award supporting "the right to dissent" and protesting recent murders of writers.[10][11] On 20 January 2016, Ashok decided to return D.Litt given to him by University of Hyderabad in protest against the “Anti-Dalit” attitude of authorities which has allegedly driven a Dalit student Rohit Vemula to commit suicide.[12]

Works[edit]

Anthology
  • Pratinidhi Kavitayen : Ashok Vajpeyi (Hindi). Rajkamal Prakashan. ISBN 978-81-7178-704-3.
  • "Din firne wale hai"  : Ashok Vajpeyi

As a translator, he translated works of four major poets of Poland, Czeslaw Milosz, W. Szymborska, Z. Herbert and T. Rozewicz into Hindi.[3]

References[edit]

External links[edit]