What do the election results in Uttar Pradesh tell us about the literary culture of the Hindi heartland? It is obvious that the people have embraced the saffron ideology, but has the Hindi literary establishment—that was once dominated by leftists—also shifted base? Where do the political writings of Hindi literature, through which it once offered great resistance to the ruling regime, stand today? An ongoing storm in the Hindi world can offer a few clues to these questions that may define the course of the language and its literature, as well as the politics of its catchment area for years to come.
A few days before the election results, Vinod Kumar Shukla (85), one of Hindi’s most-loved and reticent writers, stunned his readers by releasing a short video clip in which he demanded the withdrawal of his books from his publishers. The publishers cheated him, he said, by not paying due royalty and publishing his books despite his clear instruction to not do so. The heart-wrenching video drew wide anger. His was not the isolated instance. Most Hindi writers often complain of being duped by their publishers. And yet, as a campaign began in his support, a large number of Hindi writers, including progressive ones, sided with the publishers. These writers even blamed Shukla and those who had taken up his issue.