Ashok Vajpeyi, veteran Hindi poet and former chairman of the Lalit Kala Akademi has returned the Sahitya Akademi Award in protest against the “assault on right to freedom of both life and expression”. Mr. Vajpeyi’s decision came on Wednesday, a day after legendary author Nayantara Sahgal returned the prestigious honour protesting against increasing intolerance towards the right to dissent in the country.
Like Ms. Sahgal, Ashok Vajpeyi too voiced his displeasure over the Dadri incident, where a 50-year-old man was killed by the mob over the rumours that he ate and stored beef. Besides, Mr. Vajpeyi also questioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s continued silence on these incidents adding deep shock over the string of killings of rationalists.
“Sahgal was right. He is a very loquacious Prime Minister. Why doesn’t he tell the nation that the pluralism of this country will be defended at every cost?” Ashok Vajpeyi told the news agency.
The 74-year-old poet, essayist and literary-cultural critic strongly disapproved the statements made by senior leaders, including Union Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma which, he said, “belittled the multi-cultural and multi-religious” fabric of the country.
“There are the comments made by the Culture Minister about renaming Aurangazeb road to APJ Abdul Kalam road. He says Kalam was a great nationalist despite being a Muslim…. These kinds of statements belittle the multi-cultural and multi-religious fabric of the country…. What can writers do but protest,” Ashok Vajpeyi said.
On Tuesday, Nayantara Sahgal, the 88-year-old niece of Jawaharlal Nehru, had announced her decision to return her Sahitya Akademi award. In an open letter titled “Unmaking of India” she had referred to the Dadri incident and also the killings of Kannada writer M M Kalburgi and rationalists Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare. Besdies, Ms Sahgal had also questioned the silence of PM Narendra Modi on these incidents.
“This is in solidarity with writers and intellectuals being murdered in broad daylight…,” Vajpeyi said.
Expressing disappointment over the failure of the Sahitya Akademi to “rise to the occasion” to protect the autonomy of writers, the veteran poet strongly opined that the “Sahitya Akademi has failed to rise to the occassion. They have not protested against what has been happening to the the writers’ autonomy. The writers’ community should rise in protest.”
The echo of concerns over the rising incidents of intolerance could also be heard away from the literary circles.
Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Raghuram Rajan on Tuesday said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s emphasis on the economic reforms does not fit well with incidents like that of love jihad and the killings
“I think there are always issues on the fringe. I think that the Finance Minister has said very clearly that these tend to distract rather than contribute. And clearly these are certainly worrisome features,” Rahuram Rajan told a Delhi based TV news channel when asked whether India’s image was being impacted on incidents like love jihad, conversion, ghar vapsi and the recent killings.
“The emphasis that Prime Minister and Finance Minister have been putting on (that) this being an economy which is trying to get it right and move forward on sustainable basis. I think that does not fit well with these kinds of incidents. And we need to figure out the way to reduce,” he added in his interview.
(With inputs from the PTI)