Modi govt questions writers as more return their awards

RSTV Bureau

PM-n-Ravi-Shankar-PrasadMore writers and poets continue to return their awards and honours in protest against the incidents of communal violence, Dadri incident and the killings of rationalist thinkers, even as Narendra Modi government questioned their move. The incumbent BJP-led central government sought to know why voices were “not heard” after incidents like Emergency and 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots.

“One thing does pain me sometimes. A number of big incidents happened in the country earlier, also but at that time people did not return (awards),” Union minister Ravishankar Prasad said in a presser at New Delhi.

“During Emergency, democratic rights including press freedom was violated on such a large scale…. massive riot happened in Muzaffarangar one and half years back… At that time also such protest was not seen,” Prasad said further adding, “we honour the scholars but will like to tell them very politely that if they get award, they have got it on the basis of their ability and knowledge on which everyone takes pride.”

In less than two weeks alone, at least 27 writers, poets, playwrights and translators, including the likes of Nayantara Sahgal, Ganesh Devy, Manglesh Dabral, Ghulan Nabi Khayal and Aman Sethi have returned their Sahitya Akademi award while, eminent writer Shashi Deshpande and poet Ashok Vajpeyi resigned from their Sahitya Akademi offices.

On Tuesday, legendary Punjabi writer Dalip Kaur Tiwana handed over her Padma Shri award protesting against the “rising intolerance’ in the country.

sahitya-akademiWhile giving up their awards and honours, these writers and poets also questioned the “silence” of Prime Minister. The Prime Minister, though, broke his silence on Wednesday condemning the killing of a 50-year-old man in Dadri over the rumours of beef eating, the writers and poets continue to return their awards and honours.

Joining the growing band of protesting writers, noted Assamese authors Nirupama Borgohain and Homen Borgohain, Bengali poet Mandakranta Sen on Wednesday announced that they were going to return their Sahitya Akademi awards.

“This is my mark of protest against what happened in Dadri and the attacks on writers and rationalists in other parts of the country,” said Ms Sen, who was given the Swarnajayanti Special Sahitya Akademi Young Writers award in 2004.

“Religious intolerance has reached extreme level. But the leader of the country, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not assured us to stop it,” Assamese author Nirupama Borgohain told the press in Guwhati.

Nirupama Borgohain won the prestigious award in 1996 for her novel ‘Abhijatri’, while, Homen Borgohain had won the award in 1978 for his novel ‘Pita Putra’.

“This is moment of crisis and choices have to be made clearly – with whom I stand and I stand with my fellow writers of Punjabi as well as other languages, who have taken side of suffering humanity and spoken against the patronisation of communal hatred, attack on institutions of knowledge, attack on freedom of ideas and their expression fearlessly,” said Chaman Lal, noted Hindi translator and a retired JNU professor, as he returned his award and cash money of his 2002 translation prize to the Sahitya Akademi.

(With inputs from the PTI)