Sahitya Akademi has strongly condemned the killing of rationalist thinker MM Kalburgi and several incidents of attack on the free speech and against the person holding opinions dissenting with the establishment. The literary body, in its General Council meeting held on Friday, also passed a unanimous resolution appealing writers and authors to take back their awards they had returned protesting against “rising intolerance” in the country.
While returning their awards, the writers had also criticised Sahitya Akademi’s silence over the incidents in Dadri, where a 50-year-old man was killed by mob after rumours of beef eating, and the murders of rationalist thinkers like MM Kalburgi in Karnataka.
“The Akademi strongly condemns the killing of writer Kalburgi and appeals to the state and central government to take steps to prevent such incidents in the future,” Krishnaswamy Nachimuthu, an executive committee board member said, after the nearly two-hour meeting.
Earlier on Friday, several writers and artists assembled at Sahitya Akademi office in New Delhi’s Mandi House taking out a silent and peaceful protest march ahead of Akademi’s General Council meeting. Central Delhi saw a heavy police presence as writers, artists along with five groups – Janvadi Lekhak Sangh, Pragatisheel Lekhak Sangh, Jansanskriti Manch, Dalit Lekhak Sangh and Sahitya Sanvad descending Akademi office early on Friday morning.
The list of writers and authors giving up their prestigious literary honours and awards in protest against the attack on free speech has grown over the last few weeks after legendary author Nayantara Sahgal returned her Sahitya award citing “shrinking” space for a dissenting opinion.
“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 had said in her statement after returning the prestigious literary honour.
Following her decision, string of writers and authors including Uday Prakash, Ganesh Devy, Ghulan Nabi Khayal, Munnawar Rana, Manglesh Dabral, Aman Sethi along with over 40 others returned their awards while, eminent writer Shashi Deshpande and poet Ashok Vajpeyi resigned from their Sahitya Akademi offices.
Eminent novelist of international repute Vikram Seth too had voiced his distress over the issue.
However, the writers’ way of protesting by returning awards was criticised by the BJP-led NDA government at the centre early last week.
“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 questioning the writers’ protest last week.
On the other hand, writers and authors have been getting a strong support for their action. Backing the writers and authors, veteran actress Sharmila Tagore called it spontaneous and brave move.
“It’s a challenging time for India…. It is a courageous act, because dissent is now violent, it is not just verbal disagreement. There is a physical assault involved. People are standing up against that and countering. I feel this is very positive and spontaneous,” the 68-year-old National Award-winning actress said.
(With inputs from the PTI/Agencies)