Leading Punjabi writer Dalip Kaur Tiwana on Tuesday expressed solidarity with protesting authors by giving up the Padma Shri that was bestowed on her in 2004. HT’s Nirupama Dutt speaks to the veteran writer, who says she is pained at “growing communalism” in the country and “curbs on freedom of expression”.
Q. Why are you giving up the Padma Shri?
The recent incidents have reopened old wounds of atrocities committed on Sikhs in 1984. It has left me deeply pained and so I decided to join the protest and express solidarity with Nayantara Sahgal and all other writers of the country who have the courage to stand for the dignity of the society.
Q. While other writers have returned the Sahitya Akademi awards, why did you decide to return the Padma award?
This was the highest honour bestowed on me. I felt that if I give up this award, it will make my dissent against the “growing communalism in the country” loud and clear.
Q. How would you explain the strong response from Punjabi writers to the nationwide protest with nine litterateurs from the state having returned their awards in the past some days?
This is the character and nature of Punjabis. The Sikh Gurus came out in protest against what they thought was wrong. We had great freedom fighters such as Udham Singh, Bhagat Singh and others. Punjabis are quick to respond and not shy of protesting.
Q. Has protest been a part of your literature too?
My stories and novels have always highlighted what is amiss in society be it the state of women or weaker sections of society.
Q. What do you think is the role of a writer?
Writers have to hold a mirror to society and also give it a right direction. They should hold their heads high and not succumb to any pressure.