Writer Chetan Bhagat said on Monday the idea of mass returning the Sahitya Akademi awards sounds ‘political’.
At least 15 authors, including Dehradun-based Nayantara Sahgal, have returned their Sahitya Akademi - India’s highest literary body - awards over the past month to protest against the ‘rising intolerance’ and ‘communal poison’ in the country.
Accepting a reward and then returning it for demeans the award and the jury. It's posturing. It's politics.— Chetan Bhagat (@chetan_bhagat) October 12, 2015
Bhagat, who was in Dehradun to participate in a talk show organised by Hindustan, said returning a state honour was a “bit of overreaction”.
He expressed surprise whether the merit-based award was being turned into “a total political patronage award because they (authors) are returning it as they don’t like what a (particular) political party is doing”.
“Despite some recent disturbing incidents that have caused concern, India continues to be largely a free society and thank god for that,” said Bhagat, whose “light-hearted” tweet purportedly questioning the logic behind the trend cooked up a major debate on Twitter.
Ok so am I also supposed to return my Sahitya Academy award? Oh wait. Haven't got it yet.— Chetan Bhagat (@chetan_bhagat) October 8, 2015
“I am very skeptical of posturing or symbolism of any kind…if there are genuine issues, you should express them (as a writer) but mixing politics with recognition feels a little funny to me,” he said.
The banker-turned-author said the awardees were moving away from the real issue and “demeaning” the honour associated with the felicitation.
“The award institution has been set up with some sanctity and they’re tarnishing the value of that award too,” said Bhagat, who has written books like Five Point Someone, Revolution 2020 and What Young India Wants.
Bhagat also questioned the imposition of “bans based on religion in a secular republic” like India.
“In my opinion, lawmakers should stay out of this,” he said, expressing concern over how “people can be flared up communally in this country so easily” even as politicians indulged in vote-bank politics.
During his interaction with HT, Bhagat said it was high time to relook at the reservation system as the India of 2015 was quite different from that of the 1950s when the concept was first introduced.
“Reservation should rather be based on economical needs…it (caste-based reservation) is snatching opportunities more than creating them,” he said, adding the youngsters should organise protests on social media and keep the pressure on the government to see the change they want.