Eminent author Amitav Ghosh has accused the government of tacitly enabling attacks on writers by its “failure” to act, but insisted he would not return his Sahitya Akademi award as part of the ongoing protests, reports said Thursday.
“There can be no doubt that the present government is tacitly enabling these attacks by failing to take punitive and preventive action. In refusing to protest, the Sahitya Akademi is shamefully in dereliction of its duties,” Ghosh told the Indian Express in an interview.
He said that while he “appreciated the courage” of the protesting writers, he would not return his Akademi award as that would amount to a repudiation of the institution’s history”. Ghosh received the honour in 1990, at a time the “institution was held in general respect by writers.”
More than 30 novelists and poets across the country have returned their literary and national awards protesting against the Akademi’s silence over the murder of rationalists in Maharashtra and the perceived threat to free speech.
Ghosh also reportedly suggested exploring an alternate form of protest like the meeting called by Konkani writer Damodar Mauzo to consider how writers can collectively proceed.
“I feel the writers who have returned their awards have done the country a public service. But in my view, the focus at this point should be on targeting the protests at the current leadership of the Sahitya Akademi rather than the institution itself,” he said.
Akademi chairman Vishwanath Prasad Tiwari has accused the writers of trying to politicise the issue saying it was illogical to return the awards as they were not awarded on the recommendations of the government.