In India, majority of the writers – especially the regional ones – are largely unheard. They’re not movies stars. They’re writers. They’re always quiet people. And the Sahitya Akademi award is probably the highest honour writers can imagine to get.
Even if the money may not be great, the honour and the prestige is very high. And what else do writers get, very frankly?
Having that context in mind, if they’re returning something as precious as this, then you are very sure that something has really bothered them. It’s a separate debate whether they should or should not return their awards. What is it that so many people are protesting? What is happening? What is the unrest?
I really think that every organisation has the right to give the award and an individual to accept it or return it, because these are the only two ways they can be heard. Here the issue is that the writers have come together to protect something.
They’re the symbol of free thinking, of what the people think and they really have their ears to the ground – especially the regional ones – and so they need to be taken seriously.
What becomes of them returning the awards is very small compared to why they are returning them.
They feel something is unjust. That needs to be looked at. It’s important. This is why a nation is great. A democracy is the power the country has. These are the people who make this democracy – writers, poets, artists, thinkers. And this is how it happens. And if they are feeling disgruntled, and if they’re unhappy, I think it needs to be looked at. This is how I look at it.
I think the debate isn’t about whether or not the award should be returned, it’s about what are so many people protesting. These people are in pain. They must be in great pain to choose to return the award. Understand, this is not a Filmfare award.
I have a feeling the government will listen to it because it’s too big a movement. They need to address it now before it blows out of proportion. I completely believe that these writers will not be penalised. I have tremendous belief in the government and I think they will not disappoint.
(As told to Hindustan Times.)
(This interview was inadvertently attributed to lyricist Prasoon Joshi. The error is regretted. )