Just days after renowned writer Nayantara Sahgal, who is also niece of Jawaharlal Nehru, returned her Sahitya Akademi Award in protest against “vicious assault” on India’s diversity and debate, six more writers have come forward and returned their Sahitya Awards in protest.
These eminent writers are Gujarat-based Ganesh Devy, ‘Yuva Puraskar’-winning author Aman Sethi and four other eminent writers from Punjab – Gurbachan Singh Bhullar, Ajmer Singh Aulakh, Atamjit Singh, Waryam Sandhu.
Kannada writer Aravind Malagatti, too, had resigned from his position in the body’s general council and joined the growing protest by writers over “rising intolerance” and “communal” atmosphere in the wake of Kalburgi murder and the Dadri lynching episode.
Earlier in the week, noted Malayalam novelist Sarah Joseph retuned her Sahitya Award and said the prevailing situation was appalling.
She told The Indian Express:
“Writers are murdered and the right to eat what one wants is denied. This is a deliberate attempt to shatter the plurality of Indian society. As a writer, I have to strongly react to this. The Prime Minister remained silent for nine days after the Dadri incident.”
Giving back his award on similar grounds,author of the book ‘A Free Man’, Aman Sethi said that he is returning his award as he was “shocked” at the literary body’s refusal to take “a firm stance” on the killing of rationalist writer MM Kalburgi.
Tweeting about the issue Sethi said:
The Akademi cannot draw its legitimacy by celebrating writers while shying clear of solidarity whn thy are targeted http://t.co/RoLDwaeoMT
— Aman Sethi (@Amannama) October 11, 2015
Meanwhile, Gujarat-based writer Ganesh Devy who won the prestigious award back in 1993 said that his decision was an expression of solidarity with several other writers, who have stated their concerns of “shrinking space for free expression” and “growing intolerance towards difference of opinion”.
There are other writers too, who have given back their awards. They are Ashok Vajpeyi, Rahman Abbas, Uday Prakash and Gurcharan Singh.
In response to the growing number of writers’ protesting over Akademi’s “silence” on rationalist MM Kalburgi’s murder, Sahitya Akademi’s chairperson Vishwanath Prasad Tiwari sent out a statement that said that the apex literary body stands for freedom of expression and condemns attack on any writer or artist anywhere.
It then went on to assert that it was committed to the “core secular values” enshrined in the Constitution and the “right to life of all”.
The latest string of protests took to 15 the number of writers who have returned their awards to the Akademi since Hindi writer Uday Prakash first did so last month over the killing of Kalburgi.
Also on Sunday, Kannada author Aravind Malagatti submitted his resignation from the Akademi’s General Council.