New Delhi: The CPI-M on Thursday hailed Indian writers for doing the country proud by standing up to condemn what it said were rising attacks on freedom of expression.
"What is heartening about the writers' protest action is the range and variety of the writers who have stood up to be counted," an editorial in the CPI-M organ "People's Democracy" said, referring to the decision by many writers across the country to return their awards.
"What binds them is their deep moorings in secular and democratic values. It is a clear and bold expression of how the country will not succumb to Hindutva authoritarianism," it said.
The writers' protest was sparked off by the August 30 killing of MM Kalburgi in Karnataka.
"Irrespective of the language they write in, or, the region they belong to, creative writers have registered a powerful protest at the supine and craven attitude of the Sahitya Akademi in not responding to the killing of one of its awardees and a former member of its council," the CPI-M said, referring to Kalburgi.
"By returning the awards bestowed on them and by resigning from the positions they hold in the Akademi, they have also spoken out against the growing attacks on plurality and cultural diversity by the Hindutva forces," the Communist Party of India-Marxist said.
It said the protest began with important Kannada writers returning their awards to the Kannada Sahitya Parishat on the slow progress in the Kalburgi murder investigation.
Chandrasekhar Patil returned the highest literary award given by the Karnataka government, the Pampa award, in protest against this "vicious attack on freedom of expression".
Soon after, noted Hindi writer Uday Prakash returned his award and prize money over the Sahitya Akademi's silence on the assault on writers.
"This has now snowballed into a powerful collective voice of protest with scores of prominent writers in major Indian languages, either returning their awards or resigning from their position in the Akademi.
"They are writers in Hindi, Malayalam, Marathi, Kannada, Punjabi, Urdu, Bengali, Tamil, Gujarati, Assamese and English.
"They constitute the best literary talent of the country. Out of the 20 members of the General Council of the Akademi, four have resigned so far."
Poet K Satchidanandan, a former long-time secretary of the Akademi, while resigning from all the committees, said the Akademi "failed in its duty to stand with the writers to uphold freedom of expression guaranteed by the Constitution".
"The writers are raising their voice not only at the Akademi's cowardly silence, but also at the refusal of the prime minister and the government to speak out against the attacks on writers and intellectuals," said the editorial.
"That the Hindutva hoodlums are getting encouragement from the government in power is clear from the utterances from the uncultured minister for culture, Mahesh Sharma.
"He criticised the writers who returned their awards by saying 'If they say they are unable to write, let them first stop writing. We will then see.'"
The editorial said "Hindutva fuelled authoritarianism" was being sustained by the BJP government's official patronage and encouragement to Hindutva ideology.