A printers' conference, which will begin here later this week, has got into a controversy with several participants pulling out to protest participation of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as the chief guest.
Scheduled to be held on March 2 in Delhi, the conference "Romancing Print 2013" is the third edition of an annual, professional conference of the printing industry.
This year it has been organised by AIFMP (All India Federation of Master Printers) and the journal Press Ideas, with participation from both national and international players in the field. The organisers say they are expecting over 300 participants.
"We are both shocked and dismayed to see that Romancing Print has seen fit to invite Narendra Modi as its Chief Guest to this year's edition...We fail to understand why, in the first place, a political figure who neither has anything to do with the print industry nor holds any official position in this regard should have been invited as Chief Guest when there is no dearth of professionals from the publishing and print industry who could lend both grace and dignity to an event such as this," said Indu Chandrasekhar of Tulika Books.
Following the protest, two of the media partners for the event -- Mumbai-based Printweek India and Delhi-based Indian Printer and Publisher (IPP) -- have withdrawn their support to the event, Chandrasekhar claimed.
In an email to organisers Ramu Ramnathan, Group Editor of Print Week India officially withdrew as a media partner for the event. "We do not agree with the content of your seminar and invitation of Narendra Modi as a chief guest," he said.
"As a magazine and as a publishing house in India with more than 12 years of standing, we stand by the principles of good taste, decency, progressive values, democratic principles and above all, the Constitution of India. As editor of PrintWeek India, I don't think Narendra Modi stands by these values; and hence the withdrawal of support," Ramnathan said.
Naresh Khanna, Editor, Indian Printer and Publisher Packaging South Asia (IPP) has also pulled out from the event.
"I regret to say that we will not be media partners for the Romancing Print 2013 Conference. We think that it is a huge mistake for you to have invited Modi to address this event. In any case we have never been consulted as to the content or program of the previous Romancing Print events and the organisers have assumed that we would simply rubber stamp our agreement to be media partners.
"It seems that in a bid to perhaps draw crowds rather than hold a conference with real content you have been misled by Narendra Modi's propaganda machine of his great successes in Gujarat...In addition, you are perhaps unwittingly becoming a part of Modi's propaganda which includes his efforts to avoid all legal responsibility for crimes perpetrated by him and his government," Khanna said.
Among those protesting the choice of Modi as chief guest are Urvashi Butalia of Zubaan Books, Arpita Das (Yoda Press), S Anand (Navayana), Radhika Menon (Tulika Publishers, Chennai), Mandira Sen (Stree-Samya, Kolkata), Asad Zaidi (Three Essays, New Delhi), Ritu Menon (Women Unlimited, New Delhi) and Chandra Chari (The Book Review, New Delhi).
Antara Dev Sen (The Little Magazine, New Delhi), Sudhanva Deshpande (Leftword, New Delhi), Madhumoy Sengupta (Samskriti, New Delhi), Esha Beteille (Social Science Press, New Delhi), Faheem Agboatwalla (Hi-Tech, Mumbai), Ram Rahman (designer, photographer and writer) and Akshay Pathak (publishing consultant and writer) are also opposed to the choice of Modi as the chief guest.
The annual printer's conference had popular writer Chetan Bhagat as the keynote speaker in the first session in the year 2011.
Organisers say like the previous two editions, this year too they expect over 300 delegates to participate.
"Certainly we will go ahead with our event," said Jacob George of PressIdeas, an organiser of the conference.
"They have a right to protest but it will not affect our event. We will go ahead as planned," he said.
The invite to the printers conference said, "A dreamer that Mr Modi is, he has the remarkable ability to transform dreams into reality and we have been seeing it in the state of Gujarat...Let us all hear him speak on his vision and mission and get inspired to do better business in our chosen field of printing!"
"We shall leave no stone unturned to make it an even bigger success than the last two," George said.
Meanwhile, Ramanathan claimed he had received "calls and sms from leading members of the AIFMP with both covert and overt threats".
"This is the second time such a thing has happened. A few months ago, I had objected to the glorification of the late Bal Thackeray by one of the 50 print associations of the AIFMP in their monthly print journal. I had sought to understand what the contribution of Thackeray was to the welfare and growth of the Indian print industry; and no answer was given by the said association; except I was told, 'we know best.'
This time we beg to disagree; and as a mark of our protest we withdraw our support to your event," Ramanathan said.
Among the foreign participants listed are Kunio Ishibashi (Japan Federation of Printing Industries), Yu Yongzhan (President of The Printing Technology Association of China), D D Buhain (Philippines), Peter Lane (Printing Industries
Association of Australia, Sanjeev Mohan (Sri Lanka Association of Printers) and C K Liew (Malaysia).
V K Gulati from Saku Group (New Delhi/Noida), Sreekumar from Bhavin Graphics (Chennai), Manu Choudhary from CDC Printers (Kolkata), Sandeep Bhargava from Kumar Printers (Manesar) and Shailesh Shah from Krisflexipack (Mumbai) are part of an Indian panel listed by the 'Romancing Print 2013' organisers.