Sahitya Akademi president Vishwanath Prasad Tiwari criticised on Tuesday the decision of several prominent writers to return their Akademi awards, saying they should have directed their anger at the government and not dragged the institution into politics.
Tiwari agreed “there might be something” that led the writers to protest after more than 20 writers gave up their Sahitya Akademi awards to express their anger over what they say is the country’s growing intolerance.
“The writers need to understand the award is given from the writers’ community to another writer for their creativity and quality of literature. The government has no role to play in it and we should keep it this way. The Akademi has always kept itself out of politics and we shouldn’t change that now,” Tiwari said.
Tiwari said the Akademi had not accepted the writers’ return of these prestigious awards and a decision was slated to be taken in a meeting on October 23.
Other Akademi members also condemned the decision of a slew of litterateurs to surrender their awards, saying it had put a blemish on the Akademi itself. The Sahitya Akademi is the country’s top literary institution devoted to promotion of writing in Indian languages.
“Writers should not return Sahitya Akademi awards. They should instead use other methods to register their protest against the government as the academy is an autonomous body. Writers are returning these awards to grab headlines,” noted Hindi writer Namwar Singh told UNI.
Several leading writers and intellectuals -- including Nayantara Sehgal, Ashok Vajpeyi and Uday Prakash -- have given up their Akademi awards to protest growing threats to free speech. Their protests have mounted pressure on the Modi government to check right-wing fanaticism that led to the killing of some free-thinkers and authors in recent months.
Gujarati writer Sitanshu Yashaschandra said unlike the Lalit Kala Akademi or Sangeet Natak Akademi in which the government appoints the chairpersons or directors, authors elect the president in the Sahitya Akademi.
“Returning the award is not a structurally correct way. They should have made (public) statements,” he said.
Other authors echoed similar sentiments.
“All of us free-thinkers and writers have the right to protest against this unbelievable insult to Indian democracy,” said Nabaneeta Dev-Sen, another Akademi member and well-known writer.