More return awards; Rushdie backs writers

Under fire from several quarters, the Akademi has called for a meeting on October 23

More return awards; Rushdie backs writers

Booker Prize winning author Salman Rushdie on Monday came in support of the writers returning their Sahitya Akademi Awards in protest against the murder of Kannada scholar M M Kalburgi and other incidents of intolerance, stating that it is an “alarming time for free expression in India.” 

The British-Indian novelist’s support came on a day when 13 more writers announced their decision to return Sahitya Akademi Awards.

Joining the league in solidarity, theatre artist Maya Krishna Rao also announced her decision to return Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in protest against the lynching of Mohammed Akhlaq in Dadri and the "overall rising intolerance" in the country.

The number of writers returning their awards may go up further as over 30 Goan writers, who are also winners of the Sahitya Akademi Award since 1970, are expected to hold a meeting on Wednesday to decide on collectively returning their awards along with the cash prize conferred on them, according to reports by a news agency.

“I support #NayantaraSahgal and the many other writers protesting to the Sahitya Akademi. Alarming times for free expression in India” Rushdie tweeted.

“Here come the Modi Toadies. FYI, Toadies: I support no Indian political party & oppose all attacks on free speech. Liberty is my own party,” the eminent author tweeted about half an hour later, apparently responding to those attacking him for his support to the Indian writers.

Those who announced their decision to return their awards included Hindi poet Mangalesh Dabral, Kashmiri writer Ghulam Nabi Khayal, Urdu novelist Rahman Abbas, Hindi writer Rajesh Joshi, Kannada scholar G N Ranganatha Rao as well as five Punjabi authors and poets Waryam Singh Sandhu, Surjit Patar, Baldev Singh Sadaknama, Jaswinder and Darshan Buttar also said they would return their awards as a mark of their protest against spread of "communal poison" and "rising intolerance" in the country.

"Rationalists, creative artists, thinkers, dissenters, activists have faced threats and even been murdered. On a carefully-orchestrated malicious rumour in Dadri village an ironsmith was lynched and killed. The government has failed to speak up for the rights of the citizens in disturbing incidents such as these," Rao said in her letter to Sangeet Natak Akademi secretary Helen Acharya .

The present government, in spite of reminders from society, had done little to stand up for the rights of people to express their thoughts and ideas and live the way they would choose to “in a free country”, she added.

In Hosapete, Ballari district, Rahamath Tarikere joined the growing list of writers returning their Central Sahitya Akademi awards.

On Monday, he sent the memento and a cheque for Rs 1 lakh - the prize money - back to the Akademi. In a letter to the Akademi chairperson, Tarikere said the killing of Kalburgi and that of Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare indicated a growing trend of ideological intolerance. The Dadri lynching incident was also a result of the same intolerance, Tarikere said.

In Shivamogga, Muddu Thirthahalli, who had won Karnataka Sahitya Akademi award for her literary work titled ‘Ondu Chandrana Tundu,’ an anthology of essays, in 2011, has decided to return the award.

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