Sahitya Akademi president Vishwanath Prasad Tiwari said on Monday writers who have returned awards to protest “rising intolerance” and “government’s onslaught on freedom of expression” should have found other ways to register their voices.
“These awards weren’t conferred on writers by the government but the Akademi on basis of the quality of their literature,” Tiwari was quoted as saying by ANI.
“Now people will think the protest is against Sahitya Akademi and will subsequently dilute the cause they have stood for,” Tiwari added.
Many in the literary fraternity have spoken against the murders of Kannada writer and Sahitya Akademi Award winner MM Kalburgi and anti-superstition activists Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare questioning the Akademi’s silence.
The lynching of a Muslim man in Uttar Pradesh’s Bisada village by a mob following rumours that he slaughtered a calf and ate beef has also triggered a wave of protests.
Till now, 15 writers have returned their awards to the Akademi since Hindi writer Uday Prakash first did so last month over the killing of Kalburgi.
On Sunday, three Punjabi writers and three other eminent authors said they will return their Sahitya Akademi awards.
Playwrights Ajmer Aulakh and Atamjit and Canada-based Waryam Sandhu joined the dissenters in the literary fraternity who have either surrendered their coveted awards or quit the Akademi in protest against what they said “rising intolerance” in the backdrop of the murders of noted rationalists as well as the Dadri lynching incident.
Delhi-based Aman Sethi said he too was returning the Sahitya Award he got in 2012 as the “spirit of inquiry is clearly under threat”. Ganesh Devy, a leading author from Gujarat and a tribal rights activist, joined him.
Karnataka’s Kum Veerabhadrappa, who had won the Sahitya Akademi award in 2007 for his book Aramane and also authored an autobiography, Gandhi Classu will also return his award.
Delivering another blow to the Akademi, Kannada writer Aravind Malagatt resigned from the body’s general council on Sunday.
Their move came a day after Punjabi writer Gurbachan Bhullar said he will return his award. Bathinda-born Bhullar, who is now based in Delhi, bagged the Sahitya Akademi Award for his 2005 book of short stories “Agni-Kalas”. Bhullar said attempts were being made to disrupt the social fabric of the country.
Kannada writer Malagatti, who joined Shashi Deshpande as the second literary figure from Karnataka to snub the Sahitya Akademi, he said he was “shocked” at the silence of the country’s premier literary body over the killing of Kalburgi. Malagatti’s most acclaimed text is called Brahmana.
On Saturday, eminent Malayalam writer Sarah Joseph and Urdu novelist Rahman Abbas too announced they will return the Sahitya Akademi awards and the Maharashtra State Urdu Sahitya Academy award, respectively.
Malayalam writers K Satchidanandan, PK Parakkadavu and KS Ravikumar quit their posts in the Akademi in protest against the murder of Kalburgi in Dharwad on the same day.
Earlier this week, eminent writer Nayantara Sahgal and former Lalit Kala Akademi chairperson Ashok Vajpeyi had returned their Sahitya Akademi awards to protest the “assault on right to freedom of both life and expression” in “growing intolerance” in the country.