Joining a slew of litterateurs who are protesting “rising intolerance” and “government’s onslaught on freedom of expression”, four eminent Punjabi writers have announced that they are returning their Sahitya Akademi Awards.
They are Ajmer Aulakh, Atamjit, Gurbachan Bhullar and Waryam Sandhu.
They have responded to a call given by the Association for Democratic Rights, Punjab, to writers and artistes following the murder of noted writers MM Kalburgi in Karnataka in August this year and Narendra Dabholkar in 2013.
Several other authors, including Nayantara Sehgal, Sara Joseph, Uday Prakash and Ashok Vajpeyi, have returned their awards demanding that the Sahitya Akademi must speak out against the killing of Kalburgi and other rationalists and the “communal” atmosphere in the backdrop of the Dadri lynching incident.
Talking to HT, Mansa-based Aulakh, a renowned Punjabi playwright, said he was very pained by the attacks on “progressive writers, leaders of the rational movement and the forcible saffronisation of education and culture”.
“My grudge is against both central and state governments Drama is the highest form of human expression. When the government is ruthlessly suppressing freedom of expression, then how a playwright can identify himself with such awards,”said Aulakh, who was given the Sahitya Akademi award in 2006 for his plays.
“Art is under threat and I have decided to return the award in these dark times,” he added.
Bhullar said he was disturbed over attempts to “disrupt the social fabric of the country”
“During recent past, the attempts at disrupting the social fabric of the country, targeting particularly the area of literature and culture, under an orchestrated plan of action, has been perturbing me,” he said.
“Literature, culture, multi-faceted creative arts, history — all representing the excellent attainments of humanity — are being debunked, ridiculed and demeaned,” said Bathinda-born Bhullar, who is now based in Delhi. He had been awarded the Sahitya Akademi Award for his 2005 book of short stories “Agni-Kalas”.
SAS Nagar-based playwright Atamjit, often remembered for his play on Manto’s short story Tobha Tek Singh, said was he returning his Akademi award as he “is very upset over the incidents communal hatred in the country for the last some months”. Atamjit was honoured with the award in 2007.
“It’s shocking for me to see that a democratic country such as India has turned intolerant. People with democratic thinking such as Kalburgi and Dabholkar have been killed and our government has shown no concern to catch their murderers,” he said.
Canada-based writer Waryam Sandhu also announced to return his Sahitya Akademi Award on Sunday evening. Sandhu received the award in 2000 for his short story collection ‘Chauthi Koot’. Earlier this year, ‘Chauthi Koot’ — a movie based on his short stories set in the days of terrorism — became the first Punjabi film to be selected for the Cannes film festival.
“The country has witnessed many disturbing incidents such as Operation Bluestar, anti-Sikh riots in Delhi, Godhra violence. Returning the Akademi award should not be the only method of protests, other means should also be adopted,” he added.