Can a writer return a Sahitya Akademi award and the money given with it? Technically, it’s not possible and the institution says there is no such precedent.
The Akademi is swamped by a growing crowd of writers relinquishing their awards, miffed at its delayed reaction on rising intolerance in the country following the murder of rationalists and the lynching of a Muslim man in Uttar Pradesh over beef.
The autonomous institution supported by the government has stowed the letters, plaques and cheques returned by the protesting writers in its New Delhi office for safekeeping.
“We have kept all the cheques that we have received from the writers and poets at a safe place. We are not encashing the cheques. We are appealing once again to all them to rethink their decision,” said Vishwanath Prasad Tiwari, president of the Akademi, on Friday.
He said their names will continue to be on the list of the awardees since there’s no written rule for returning the honour or the award money.
“We have never witnessed such a situation before and we are trying to deal with it in the best possible way. There are no written rules. Once the award is given to someone, our records will always reflect that. We will wait for a month for the writers to respond to our appeal,” Tiwari said.
At its emergency meeting on October 23, the Akademi urged the writers to rethink their decision.
Poet Ashok Vajpeyi, one of the high-profile protesters to return his award, confirmed that he has received a copy of the Akademi’s resolution requesting the writers to rethink their decision.
“But I have no intention of taking back the cheque or the award. Whether there is a provision of it being returned or not is a technical issue as it is an act of protest,” he said.
Sources said no one has taken back their cheque so far and the Akademi is likely to discuss what to do with writers renouncing their award at its executive body meeting in December.
The writers’ protest, trending on social media through the hashtag #AwardWapsi, has dented the Akademi’s image as it has been increasingly accused of toeing the Hindu hardliners’ line.
Tiwari countered the allegation. “The issue has moved beyond the Akademi. Now that filmmakers and others have joined this trend of returning their awards, it has turned into a political issue.”