Writers and artists will not meet the government representatives, they want a public statement on the climate of intolerance, says noted poet, columnist and former bureaucrat Ashok Vajpayee who returned his Sahitya Academy award recently. In an exclusive interview to Rajya Sabha TV, Vajpayee condemned Finance minister Arun Jaitley’s comment on the manufactured rebellion saying that writers have a political opinion but are not a part of any political formation. Pointing fingers at the Modi government the legendary poet said that people now have to remain alert to the growing dangers of intolerance as Prime Minister does not seem to be inclined to address the issue at all. Speaking about the workings of the cultural academies in the country, Vajpayee stressed on the need to bring in professionalism by reinventing them. He also mentioned how undeserving people had decisive roles to play but decried the lack of political will to bring in change.
Here are some excerpts from the interview:
Q) Why did you return your award?
There is a widespread anger and agitation among the creative community. 42 writers returned the award after the protest, who did not even know each other. Our protest is against the climate of intolerance and we feel that the current govt does not seem to be serious to address the issue.
Q) People say giving away awards is part of a political agenda?
Writers and artists do have political opinions but they don’t belong to any political formation. Politics is intrusive in almost every sphere. One person was killed on the rumours of having beef…our protest was about that intolerance.
Q) Arun Jaitley says it is a manufactured rebellion?
Jaitley should think twice before making such an irresponsible statement. The Prime Minister doesn’t find this discontent worth addressing and his ministers are making such statements. People should be alert to the growing danger of intolerance.
Q) Rajnath Singh says he is ready to meet the writers. If he offers a solution, will you take back your award?
We protested in the public domain and now we want a statement in the public domain. Why should we meet any political representative? Writers and artists will not meet the government representatives, they want a public statement on the climate of intolerance.
Q) Sahitya Akademi is autonomous but concerns of the writers are political, do you see a dichotomy?
We have political opinions but are not a part of any formation so clearly there is no dichotomy. It is the job of the writers to raise the issue on what is happening in the society.
Q) 61 Year old academy of letters seems to be clueless now that the writers have returned their awards?
We have requested Sahitya Akademi to re-invent itself and have sent a letter to the chairman to enact soon.
Q) Is it difficult to run an autonomous institution?
Government officials are holding positions in these bodies but do not play a decisive role. We need to bring in professionals and do not allow the governments to interfere. All the three Akademis needs a restructuring.
(You can watch the entire interview at 10 pm on Wednesday and 10:30 am on Thursday)