A day after returning his Sahitya Akademi award, noted Hindi writer Kashinath Singh on Saturday lashed out at English author Chetan Bhagat, calling him a ‘bazaru’ writer whose literary work “lacked seriousness”.
Singh said this in reaction to Bhagat’s tweets in which he called the trend of writers returning awards ‘politically motivated’ and questioned that if people who didn’t like the government would return their passports or university degrees as well.
Talking to HT, Singh said, “Writing and passports are two different things and so they should not be linked together. We are committed to creative literary writing which has depth and seriousness. As far Chetan Bhagat is concerned, he is a bazaru writer. The kind of seriousness required for writing is missing from his work.”
He also compared Bhagat to popular Hindi writer Gulshan Nanda, whose novels were also adapted into several films in the 1970s. “But Nanda was never taken as a serious literary figure,” he said.
Singh had on Friday joined the growing league of writers who had decided to return their Sahitya Akademi award over “growing intolerance” in the country.
“Growing intolerance has resulted in incidents like Dadri. Litterateurs like Kalburgi, Dabholkar and Pansare were murdered. A serious threat looms large on the freedom of speech. Despite this fact, PM Narendra Modi has maintained a silence over the matter,” Singh had said on the occasion.
A day later, his views have been lauded by several noted litterateurs of Varanasi who also expressed sadness over Bhagat’s remarks.
Noted Hindi novelist Abdul Bismillah, who taught Hindi at Jamia Millia Islamia, said, “I am hurt by such remarks. Availing passport through due process by completing all the formalities is a right of every Indian citizen. But as far as awards are concerned, a writer never asks to be given an award. It is conferred on him for his literary work. A selection committee evaluates the work of the writer before announcing his or her name,” Prof Bismillah said.
He said the two couldn’t be compared and the stand taken by the writers against intolerance prevailing in the country is an appropriate move.
“I have already congratulated prof Kashinath Singh for his bold move in returning the award. This is first time in the country that so many writers and artistes have come together in protest against attempts to create a communal rift in the society. Such attempts are a threat to the unity and the spirit of our country,” he said.
Expressing similar views, another Sahitya Akademi award-winning poet Gyanendrapati said, “I endorse the views of Bismillah. Passport is the right of every citizen and no one can take that away from him. An award on the other hand is a recognition of a writer’s work and dedication towards his art. So, the two cannot be compared.”
Another professor, Deepak Malik, also criticised those who have been suggesting that writers returning their awards must also return the cash with interest.
“Such statements are mischievous and smell of covert support from the Sangh parivar,” he said.