Writers step up protest, three more return Akademi award

Writers step up protest, three more return Akademi award

Three eminent writers from Punjab today announced that they were returning 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.

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 Gurbachan Bhullar, Ajmer Singh Aulakh and Atamjit Singh, today announced that they were returning their Sahitya Akademi awards like several other authors including Nayantara Sehgal, Sara Joseph, Uday Prakash and Ashok Vajpeyi 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.

"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.

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".

Poet and critic Adil Jussawalla, who won the Sahitya Akademi honour for his 2014 work, also urged the literary body to condemn the "unacceptable censoring" of writers by "violentaly intolerant groups." Jussawalla said he has written to chairperson of Sahitya Akademi.

In his statement, the Akademi's chairperson said,"We wish to emphasise that the Akademi stands for freedom of expression of all writers, irrespective of caste, colour, creed or nationality.

"Sahitya Akademi condemns the attack on and murder of any writer or artist anywhere.

"Sahitya Akademi is committed to the core secular values enshrined in the Constitution of India and the golden principle of the right to life of all," Tiwari said.

Stating that he was pained at reports in the media that Sahitya Akademi is "silent" on many recent events, he said, "I as the President can express my official views on any matter only after placing the same before and getting the requisite approval form the Executive Board of Sahitya Akademi in the next meeting."

Appealing to the writers community, Tiwari said since the Akademi, India's National Academy of Letters, is also run by writers, they should come forward and protect the dignity of the autonomous body.

Malayalam poet K Satchidanandan has also decided to quit all posts in the Akademi while another Malayalam short story writer P K Parakkadavu also said he will quit the Akademi membership.

Bhullar said the "serious challenge posed by regressive forces in the domains of literature and culture" have led him to raise his voice.

"Literature, culture, multi-faceted creative arts, history -all representing the excellent attainments of humanity-are being debunked, ridiculed and demeaned," he said.

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