Malayalam and English poet K. Satchidanandan and noted writer Sarah Joseph on Saturday made their protest over a “vicious assault” on India’s diversity public. They are also protesting the central government’s failure to stop communal incidents.
While Satchidanandan announced his resignation from all posts in the Sahitya Akademi, Sarah returned her Sahitya Akademi Award.
They have thus joined a growing list of litterateurs who have returned their prizes to the central/state governments as a mark of protest.
In the last few days, eminent writers/poets like Uday Prakash, Nayantara Sahagal and Ashok Vajpeyi have returned their awards while Shashi Deshpande has resigned from Sahitya Akademi General Council.
They were protesting over the alarmingly increasing communal incidents, including the recent killing of a Muslim man in a Dadri village based on a rumour that he had eaten beef and stored the meat in house.
After this incident, the politics over beef has spread across the country and incidents related to beef are being reported almost everyday.
Sarah Joseph said she would return the award to protest the lynching of 50-year-old Akhlaq in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh, on the night of September 28.
While announcing her decision to return the award she won in 2003, Sarah said, “The country is now passing through very tough times. I feel it’s worse than the black days of the Emergency.”
She said, “I will return the award along with the cash award that I received then.”
Referring to the lynching, Sarah said, “Our prime minister is a frequent flyer and gives big speeches on his trips abroad. The sad thing is that while he was away a man was beaten to death because he [allegedly] ate beef.”
On Friday, Shashi Deshpande resigned from Sahitya Akademi General Council. She said, “I expected Sahitya Akademi to take a stand on the killing of Mr MM Kalburgi.”
Kalaburgi, 77, a former Hampi University vice-chancellor, was shot dead by two unidentified assailants at his residence in Dharwad in northern Karnataka. Six Kannada and an Urdu writer have also returned literary awards to the state government as a mark of protest.
Shashi’s resignation came after Uday Prakash, Nayantara Sahagal and Ashok Vajpeyi had returned their awards in protest against Kalburgi’s killing and the silence on the issue.
Shashi said, “I knew Kalburgi. I was upset ever since I heard about his death. I was born and brought up in Dharwad. He also lived in Dharwad. I thought there would be some statement, some regret (by the Akademi) over the manner of his death. It was not an ordinary death. He was killed because of his opinions and ideas. I thought the least I can do now is to move out of the association that does not speak for its members.”
In a letter to office-bearers of the Akademi, Shashi wrote, “Prof Kalburgi was a noted scholar, and a good and honest human being; he was also a Sahitya Akademi awardee and a member of its General Council until recently. If the Akademi, the premier literary organisation in the country, cannot stand up against such an act of violence against a writer, if the Akademi remains silent about this attack on one of its own, what hope do we have of fighting the growing intolerance in our country?”
Shashi added, “It has also become clear that writers, who are supposed to be the conscience-keepers of society, are no longer considered intellectual leaders; their voices no longer matter. Perhaps this is the right time for writers to reclaim their voices.”