Sarah Joseph returns award, Satchidanandan quits Akademi

Sarah Joseph returns award, Satchidanandan quits Akademi
Creating a storm in literary circles in Kerala, eminent Malayalam novelist Sarah Joseph today decided to return the Sahitya Akademi award, while poet K Satchidanandan and short story writer P K Parakkadavu decided to quit their Akademi memberships, protesting the silence over recent attacks on writers.

Joseph, who won the prestigious honour for her novel 'Aalahayude Penmakkal' (Daughters of God the Father), said she would soon send the cash prize and plaque to the Akademi by courier.

"An alarming situation is being created in the country in all spheres of life after the Modi government came to power. The religious harmony and secularism of the country is unprecedentedly under threat," she told PTI from Thrissur.

She said three writers had already been killed and K S Bhagwan was facing threat from communal forces. But the Centre had done nothing to dispel the growing fear among writers, activists and people in other sections of society, she said.

Joining the group of writers registering their protest, eminent poet Satchidanandan resigned from all committees of the Sahitya Akademi, saying the literary body had "failed" in its duty to stand with writers and uphold freedom of expression.

Satchidanandan was serving in the General Council, Executive Board and Financial Committee of the Akademi.

"I am sorry to observe that the Akademi has failed in its duty to stand with the writers and to uphold the freedom of expression guaranteed by the Constitution that seems to be getting violated everyday in the country," the writer said.

"I had written to the Akademi when MM Kalburgi was killed earlier. They had held condolences in Bangalore but they should have done something nationally. There was no response to my request to pass a resolution," Satchidanandan told PTI.

Observing that the Sahitya Akademi was the "conscience keeper of the writing community", he said the literary body should actively condemn the killing of Kalburgi.

Parakkadavu also said he would also resign from his Akademi membership. Today's developments have triggered a division in the state's literary circles with writers coming out for and against the issue.

Jnanpith laureate M T Vasudevan Nair said he was not against any protests, but made it clear that he would not be returning the Akademi honours bestowed on him in 1968.

Eminent poet Sugathakumari also said there is no point in returning the award to mark the writers' protest.

In remarks that could fuel further controversy, Novelist P Valsala said, "Some people were selected for awards and some others had bought it. Those who had bought the awards are now returning it".

Another well known writer U A Khader said, "The returning of a recognition is akin to letting himself or herself down' and said he does not believe in returning awards to appease any political sections."

Writer Subhash Chandran, who won the Akademi award last year, said he was seriously thinking about returning the honour as a mark of protest.

Earlier this week, eminent writer Nayantara Sahgal and former Lalit Kala Akademi chairman Ashok Vajpeyi had returned their Sahitya Akademi Awards to protest the "assault on right to freedom of both life and expression". Noted Hindi writer Uday Prakash was the first to return his Sahitya Akademi award to protest Kalburgi's murder.

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