For authors Somai Kisku and Santosh Khajuria receiving the Tagore Literary Awards on Thursday was a big milestone.
Kisku writes in Santhali and Khajuria in Dogri, two languages that were recognised as official Indian languages only in 2003 and had not been included in any national-level literary awards before.
The two languages are among the eight languages chosen for the Tagore Literary Awards 2010 for their contribution in Indian languages. The award was instituted last year by Samsung India and the Sahitya Akademi. In a ceremony at Dadar’s Ravindra Natya Mandir, the Akademi also awarded writers from Urdu, Marathi, Rajasthani, Tamil, Assamese and Odia.
“It was a struggle to get the Santhali language recognised. Such an award would serve as a huge encouragement for our writers,” said Kisku, whose novel, Namalia, explores the pathos of tribals displaced from their homelands by large infrastructure projects. The book is now being translated into Hindi.
The awards were given to writers across all genres, from fiction and short stories to poetry and even literary criticism.
“Books of literary criticism are seldom given national level awards, so this one is a surprising exception,” said RG Jadhav, Pune-based author of Nivadak Samiksha, a collection of critical essays on important Marathi books and issues in the Marathi literary world.
For Urdu poet Chander Bhan Khayal, the award for his ghazal collection Subah-e-Mashriq ki Azan is special because of the increasing value being given to Indian English literature.
“Every language has its own place and its writers are just as deserving of attention as English writers,” said Khayal.
The Tagore Awards plan to cover 24 regional languages in three-year cycles, focusing on eight languages every year.
“We are a one of the world’s largest English-speaking nations, but returning to one’s roots is equally important and it is time we promote literature in Indian languages,” said Ruchika Batra, head of corporate communications in Samsung’s south-west Asia division.