Strongly opposing the attack on right to voice dissenting opinions, freedom of speech and recent instances of communal violence, another writer decided to return her prestigious Sahitya Akademi award. Malayalam novelist Sarah Joseph on Saturday joined the list of writers and authors who gave up their honours in protest against the incident in Dadri, where a 50-year-old man was lynched by the mob on rumours that he ate beef.
Earlier this week, eminent writer Nayantara Sahgal, poet Ashok Vajpeyi returned Sahitya Akademi awards, while award-winning author Shashi Deshpande resigned from the Sahitya Akademi General Council on Friday. Whereas Urdu novelist Rahman Abbas announced on Thursday that he would be returning the Maharashtra State Urdu Sahitya Academy Award in protest.
Citing reasons behind her decision to return top literary honour, Ms Joseph said that she is returning her in protest against what she called the “growing communalism” and “life threat faced by writers” in the country.
“An alarming situation is being created in the country in all spheres of life after Modi government came into power. The religious harmony and secularism of the country is unprecedentedly under threat,” she told the news agency in Thrissur criticising the incumbent government.
68-year-old Sarah Joseph had won the prestigious honour for her novel ‘Aalahayude Penmakkal’ (Daughters of God the Father).
“Three writers had already been killed and KS Bhagwan was facing life threat from communal forces. But, the Centre had done nothing to alleviate the growing fear among writers and activists and people in other sections of the society,” Ms Joseph added further.
Criticised PM Modi, in what she termed as his “delayed reaction” over the Dadri incident, Ms Joseph said, “Our Prime Minister took nine days to react to the Dadri incident. His silence was scary and highly condemnable.”
Joining the group of writers registering their protest, eminent poet Satchidanandan resigned from all committees of the Sahitya Akademi, saying the literary body had “failed” in its duty to stand with writers and uphold freedom of expression.
Mr. Satchidanandan was serving in the General Council, Executive Board and Financial Committee of the Akademi.
Earlier, legendary author Nayantara Sahgal returned her prestigious honour protesting against increasing intolerance towards the right to dissent in the country. Her move was followed by Ashok Vajpeyi, veteran Hindi poet and former chairman of the Lalit Kala Akademi, who returned his Sahitya Akademi honour strongly condemning the “assault on right to freedom of both life and expression”.
“It is a matter of sorrow that the Sahitya Akademi remains silent…. In memory of the Indians who have been murdered, in support of all Indians who uphold the right to dissent, and of all dissenters who now live in fear and uncertainty, I am returning my Sahitya Akademi Award,” Nayantara Sahgal had said in her statement on October 6.
On Friday, award-winning author Shashi Deshpande also resigned from the Sahitya Akademi General
Council expressing “a sense of strong disappointment” over the literary body’s silence on the killing of Kannada writer MM Kalburgi.
“I do this with regret, and with the hope that the Akademi will go beyond organising programmes, and giving prizes, to being involved with crucial issues that affect Indian writers’ freedom to speak and write,” Ms Deshpande wrote in her letter to Akademi chairperson Vishwanath Prasad Tiwari.
(With inputs from the PTI)