New Delhi: After eminent writer Nayantara Sahgal, former Lalit Kala Akademi chairman Ashok Vajpeyi has returned the Sahitya Akademi Award to protest the "assault on right to freedom of both life and expression".
Voicing displeasure over the Dadri lynching incident and and a string of killings of rationalists, he also questioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi's continued silence on these.
"Sehgal was right. He is a very loquacious Prime Minister. Why doesn't he tell the nation that the pluralism of this country will be defended at every cost?" Vajpeyi told PTI today.
The 74-year-old Hindi poet, essayist and literary-cultural critic disapproved of statements by senior leaders, including Union Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma which, he said, "belittled the "multi-cultural and multi-religious" fabric of the country.
"There are the comments made by the Culture Minister about renaming Aurangazeb road to APJ Abdul Kalam road. He says Kalam was a great nationalist despite being a Muslim.
"These kinds of statements belittle the multi-cultural and multi-religious fabric of the country....What can writers do but protest," he said.
Yesterday, Nayantara Sahgal, the 88-year-old niece of Jawaharlal Nehru, had announced her decision to return her Sahitya Akademi award. In an open letter titled "Unmaking of India" she had referred to the Dadri lynching of a Muslim man by a mob over suspicion of eating beef, and also the killings of Kannada writer M M Kalburgi and rationalists Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare.
Sehgal had also questioned the silence of PM Narendra Modi on these incidents.
"This is in solidarity with writers and intellectuals being murdered in broad daylight...," Vajpeyi said.
He also expressed disappointment over the failure of the Sahitya Akademi to "rise to the occassion" to protect the autonomy of writers.
"The Sahitya Akademi has failed to rise to the occassion. They have not protested against what has been happening to the the writers' autonomy. The writers' community should rise in protest," Vajpeyi said.