Expressing anguish over recent communal incidents in the country, noted authors have made a beeline for returning their prized Sahitya Akademi Awards. It is in protest against the atmosphere of communal intolerance in India, which they say has plagued the nation. They have also blamed the central government of doing nothing to put an end to it.
Many in the literary fraternity have raised their voice against the killing of Kannada writer and Sahitya Akademi Award winner M M Kalburgi and anti-superstition activists Narendra Dabholkar and senior CPM leader Govind Pansare, questioning the government and the Akademi's silence on such incidents.
This protest gained momentum after a mob of 200 brutally lynched a 52-year-old Muslim man in Dadri on rumours that he and his family had eaten beef. A forensic report recently, however, said that the meat found in Akhlaq's house was not beef, but mutton.
Sahitya Akademi Award is India's National Academy of Letters and the central institution for literary dialogue, publication and promotion in the country. Every year since its inception in 1954, the Sahitya Akademi Award prizes to the most outstanding books of literary merit published in any of the major Indian languages recognised by the Akademi, according to the official website.
Here is the list of writers who have returned their Sahitya Akademi Award over the last week in protest.
It started with renowned writer and Jawaharlal Nehru's niece Nayantara Sahgal who returned her Sahitya Akademi Award and gave a statement in which she raised her concerns about "India’s culture of diversity" and mentioned it was under "vicious assault". Sahgal, who writes in English, won the prestigious literary award in 1986 for her novel Rich Like Us. "In memory of the Indians who have been murdered, in support of all Indians who uphold the right to dissent, and of all dissenters who now live in fear and uncertainty, I am returning my Sahitya Akademi Award," she said.
This was followed former Lalit Kala Akademi chairman Ashok Vajpeyi returning the Sahitya Akademi Award to protest the "assault on right to freedom of both life and expression". "Sehgal was right. He is a very loquacious Prime Minister. Why doesn't he tell the nation that the pluralism of this country will be defended at every cost?" the 74-year-old Hindi poet, essayist and literary-cultural critic said.
Popular writer Sarah Joseph returned her Kendra Sahitya Akademi Award as well. Joseph, 69, received the award for her novel Aalahayude Penmakkal (Daughters of God the father) first published in 1999."There is a fear that has engulfed in what one eats, when one expresses love, and there is some sort of curb on what one wants to write and speak. This does not augur well," she said.
Punjabi author Gurbachan Bhullar said he was perturbed by the attempts to "disrupt the social fabric of the country." "During recent past, the attempts at disrupting the social fabric of the country, targeting particularly the area of literature and culture, under an orchestrated plan of action, has been perturbing me," he said. The 78-year-old author born in Bathinda in Punjab had been awarded the Sahitya Akademi for his 2005 book of short stories Agni-Kalas.
Ajmer Singh Aulakh
A renowned Punjabi playwright, Aulakh said he was very pained by the attacks on "progressive writers, leaders of the rational movement and the forcible saffronisation of education and culture". He said he was "very upset over the communal atmosphere being created in the country and the central government was not performing its duty as the representative of a secular and democratic country".
Punjabi theatre personality Atamjit Singh said he was returning his Akademi Award as he "is very upset over the incidents communal hatred in the country for the last some months".
Ghulam Nabi Khayal
Ghulam Nabi Khayal joined the authors in returning their Sahitya Akademi awards, saying the minorities in the country today feel "unsafe and threatened". "I have decided to return the award. The minorities in the country are feeling unsafe and threatened. They feel their future is bleak," Khayal said. Khayal, who won the prestigious honour for his book Gashik Minaar (Luminaries) in 1975, said he would soon return the cash prize and copper plaque to the Akademi.
Noted Hindi poet Rajesh Joshi also announced that he had returned his Sahitya Akademi award in protest against the attacks on the freedom of speech and expression in the country. He was conferred the award in 2002. "The government is keeping mum on writers' murders. On one hand the intolerance is on the rise in the country, on the other hand attacks are being perpetrated on the freedom of speech and expression," Joshi said.
(With agency inputs)
Updated Date: Oct 13, 2015 07:25 AM