Vadodara/Chandigarh/New Delhi: Gujarat-based writer Ganesh Devy and five other eminent writers on Saturday decided to return their Sahitya Akademi awards while Kannada writer Aravind Malagatti resigned from the body's general council, joining the growing protest by litterateurs over "rising intolerance" and "communal" atmosphere.
Devy, who hails from Vadodara, said he was returning the award to express solidarity with Nayantara Sahgal, Ashok Vajpeyi and others who have given up their awards to condemn the "shrinking space for free expression and growing intolerance towards differences of opinion" in the country.
"The great idea of India is based on a profound tolerance for diversity and difference. They far surpass everything else in importance. That we have come to a stage when the honourable Rastrapatiji had to remind the nation that these must be seen as non-negotiable foundations of India should be enough of a reason for the Sahitya Akademi to act," Devy said in a letter topresident of Sahitya Akademi Prof Viswanath Pratap Tiwari.
Delhi-based Aman Sethi said he too was returning the Sahitya Award he got in 1993, as the "spirit of inquiry is clearly under threat".
Noted Kannada writer Kum Veerabhadrappa said in Bengaluru that he has decided to return the award condemning Akademi's "silence" over the killing of rationalist M M Kalburgi and Dadri lynching.
"I'm condemning the killings of Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and M M Kalburgi, and Akademi's silence on the issue; also against Dadri lynching," he said.
With the writers' protest over its "silence" on rationalist MM Kalburgi's murder growing louder, Sahitya Akademi chairperson Vishwanath Prasad Tiwari came out with a statement saying the apex literary body stands for freedom of expression and condemns attack on any writer or artist anywhere. It asserted its commitment to the "core secular values" enshrined in the Constitution and the "right to life of all".
Eminent writers from Punjab, Gurbachan Bhullar, Ajmer Singh Aulakh and Atamjit Singh, also announced that they were returning their Sahitya Akademi awards like several other authors including Sara Joseph and Uday Prakash, demanding that the Akademi speak out against the killing of its member Kalburgi and other rationalists and the "communal" atmosphere in the backdrop of the Dadri lynching incident.
Bhullar said he was perturbed by the attempts to "disrupt
the social fabric of the country"
"During recent past, the attempts at disrupting the social fabric of the country, targeting particularly the area of literature and culture, under an orchestrated plan of action, has been perturbing me," he said.
The 78-year-old author born in Bathinda in Punjab had been awarded the Sahitya Akademi for his 2005 book of short stories "Agni-Kalas".
A renowned Punjabi playwright, Aulakh said he was very pained by the attacks on "progressive writers, leaders of the rational movement and the forcible saffronisation of education and culture".
He said he was "very upset over the communal atmosphere being created in the country and the central government was not performing its duty as the representative of a secular and democratic country".
Punjabi theatre personality Atamjit Singh said he was returning his Akademi Award as he "is very upset over the incidents communal hatred in the country for the last some months".
In more embarrassment for the Akademi, Aravind Malagatti resigned from its General Council, condemning its 'silence' over the killing of progressive thinker and scholar Kalburgi.
"I have resigned condemning the killing of Kalburgi and silence of Akademi over the issue. It should have spoken out and expressed its condemnation against such acts," he told PTI.
"Killing of personalities like Kalburgi, (Govind) Pansare and incidents like Dadri lynching are an attack on the Constitutional rights in this country. They are highly condemnable," Malagatti said.
Malagatti is among 20 representatives from various Universities in the General Council of the Sahitya Akademi.
Recently literary figures like Shashi Deshpande, K Satchidanandan, P K Parakkadavu had resigned from their posts in the Akademi, citing similar reasons.
Nayantara Sahgal, the 88-year-old niece of Jawaharlal Nehru, whose renunciation of the Sahitya Award triggered a wave of return of honours by eminent writers, today hit back at the Akademi chairperson for his criticism of her action.
"I have considered the Award a high honour, but my 'credibility' had been established decades before 1986 through my long career as a writer, as had the 'goodwill' and recognition I have received over many years in India and abroad.
Sahgal, in her letter, also said "the fact that so many writers are returning their awards or resigning from Akademi posts makes it clear how anguished we are that you have remained silent over the murder and intimidation of writers and the threat that hangs over dissent and debate".
A federation of Kashmiri scholars, Adbee Markaz Kamraz, too expressed solidarity with the eminent writers for their decision to return Sahitya Akademi awards, asking the top literary body to break its silence over the increasing "communal frenzy".