Supporting Right to Dissent eminent author Nayantara Sahgal returns prestigious award

RSTV Bureau

Photo courtesy: Ramesh Lalwani/CC BY 3.0

Eminent author and niece of Jawaharlal Nehru, Nayantara Sehgal returned the prestigious Sahitya Akademi award strongly protesting against increasing intolerance towards the right to dissent in the country. Ms Sehgal, who received a Sahitya Akademi award in 1986 for her English novel ‘Rich Like Us (1985)’ also questioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his silence over the incidents involving the members of minority communities and even the rationalists.

“The ruling ideology today is a fascist ideology and that is what is worrying me now…. I am doing whatever I believe in,” said Ms Sehgal.

Citing various incidents of killings of writers and rationalists including M M Kalburgi and Govind Pansare, the legendary author alleged, “Rationalists who question superstition, anyone who questions any aspect of the ugly and dangerous distortion of Hinduism known as Hindutva whether in the intellectual or artistic sphere, or whether in terms of food habits and lifestyle are being marginalised, persecuted, or murdered.”

Expressing shock on the incidents of brutal mob murder of a 50-years old man in the outskirts of National Capital over the rumours that his family ate and stored beef, Ms Sahgal stressed, “In all these cases, justice drags its feet”.

“Mohammed Akhlaq (victim), was dragged out of his home in Bishada village outside Delhi, and brutally lynched, on the supposed suspicion that beef was cooked in his home, the 88-year-old author said in a statement adding “the Prime Minister remains silent about this reign of terror. We must assume he dare not alienate evil-doers who support his ideology”.

“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 Sehgal said in her statement, who in the past also strongly criticised imposition of the Emergency in 1975 by her cousin late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

Criticising PM Modi, she said that “Modi is a politician who knows how to speak. He has given long speeches. On twitter and other social media he is vocal. He should be responsible for (what is happening) in the country.”

Ms Sahgal also referred to the recent speech made by Vice-President Hamid Ansari, where he had strongly set it on record that Constitution promises of ‘liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship’ and termed that it was a duty of the state to “protect and safeguard every citizen”.

“He found it necessary to do so because India’s culture of diversity and debate is now under vicious assault,” Nayantara spoke referring to the Vice President’s statement.

(With inputs from the PTI)