The Academic Protest by returning Sahitya Akademi Award?

Over the past two weeks , more than 25 litterateurs have returned their Sahitya Akademi Award so far. Several elite writers and poets have also resigned their posts in the 20-member General Council of Sahitya Akademi.
The litterateurs are returning their Sahitya Akademi Award as a mark of their protest against the acts of communal intolerance and the silence of central government led by our Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi.

1. What is Sahitya Akademi Award?
Sahitya Akademi Award is a literary honour in India which Sahitya Akademi, India’s National Academy of Letters, annually confers on writers of the most outstanding books of Literary merit published in any of the major Indian languages recognised by the Sahitya Akademi , New Delhi.
Every year since its inception in 1054, the Sahitya Akademi Award is given to the most outstanding books of literary merit published in any of the major Indian languages which are recognised by the Akademi. The award amount which was Rs. 5,000 since inception had been enhanced to Rs. 1,00,000 from 2009.
Sahitya Akademi Award

2. Reasons for returning the Award

  • Murder of M.M Kalburgi – Protesting writers claimed that well known writer Professor M.M Kulburgi was killed by unknown persons in Dharwad, Karnatka for his work. After his death, another writer in Karnataka received threat letter. They protest that why everyone is silent on his death and isn’t taking step for other writer’s security.
  • Lynching of a man over beef ban issue- A hindu mob killed a muslim on the basis of rumours that he has consumed beef. Cows are considered sacred by Hindus. A forensic report recently said that the meat found in house was not beef but mutton.
  • Freedom to express thoughts- Writers claimed that they are being threatened to speak the truth to the society. They cannot write anything against the sentiments and beliefs of the society. They are being insecured and unsafe.
  • Demand for anti-superstition bill- writers demanded to pass anti-superstition bill which can fight against fundamentalist forces and media terrorism.

3. List of litterateurs who returned the Award

S.No.        Litterateurs Language Year they got the award
1. Uday Prakash Hindi writer 2010
2. Nayantara Sehgal English writer 1986
3. Ashok Vajpeyi Hindi poet 1994
4. Sarah Joseph Malayalam novelist 2003
5. Ghulam Nabi Khayal Kashmiri writer 1975
6. Rahman Abbas Urdu novelist 2011
7. Waryam Sandhu Punjabi writer 2000
8. Gurbachan Singh Bhullar Punjabi writer 2005
9. Ajmer Singh Aulakh Punjabi writer 2006
10. Atamjit Singh Punjabi writer 2009
11. G.N Ranganatha Rao Kannada translator 2014
12. Mangalesh Dabral Hindi writer 2000
13. Rajesh Joshi Hindi writer


14. Ganesh Devy Gujarati writer 1993
15. Srinath DN Kannada translator 2009
16. Kumbar Veerabhadrappa Kannada novelist 2007
17. Rahmat Tarikere Kannada writer 2010
18. Baldev Singh Sadaknama Punjabi novelist 2011
19. Jaswinder Punjabi poet 2014
20. Darshan Battar Punjabi poet 2011
21. Surjit Patar Punjabi poet 1993
22. Chaman Lal Punjabi translator 2002
23. Homen Borgohain Assamese journalist 1978
24. Mandakranta Sen Bengali poet 1984
25. Keki N Daruwalla Indian English poet 1984
26. Nand Bhardwaj Rajasthani Hindi writer 2004

4. List of litterateurs who stepped out from their posts in Sahitya Akademi

S.No. Litterateur Language
1 Shashi Deshpande Kannada author
2 K Satchidanandan Malayalam poet
3 PK Parakkadvu Malayalam writer
4 Aravind Malagatti Kannada poet

5. Protesting statements by famous litterateurs

  • Speaking about Kalburgi murder case, Uday Prakash said, “…worried, upset and even scared at what is happening and how so many voices are being silenced.”
  • Uday Prakash, after returning his award, was quoted as saying, “Someone like Kalburgi, who the Akademi has termed as ‘outstanding’ gets shot in cold blood. Yet, the Akademi does not… condole, issue a statement or even a message of regret to the family.”
    “In case of railway accidents for instance, even callous governments express sorrow and make a perfunctory visit. But there has been no word, nothing, just silence,” added Prakash.
  • Writers such as Nayantara Sahgal and Ashok Vajpeyi said, “India’s culture of diversity and the right to dissent was under vicious assault.”
    “Rationalists who question superstition, anyone who questions any aspect of the ugly and dangerous distortion of Hinduism … are being marginalized, persecuted, or murdered,” added Sahgal.
  • Ghulam Nabi Khayal, a writer and poet from Kashmir, returned his award and said, “I can’t fight these communal forces physically so I have decided to lodge a silent protest by returning the award.”
  • In Vadodara, Joshi said: “The atmosphere has become hateful. There is no breathing space and no freedom of expression for literary writers. It is like losing oxygen because we are writers who wish for free breathing space. I do not need an oxygen cylinder in the form of awards… The attack on writers is unfortunate and has taken away the freedom of expression.” Joshi received the Akademi award in 1990 for his collection of essays.
  • “What is happening in India pains me. To return an award is the only way to express my resentment… As a person, I want live in a country that is secular, not one where freedom of speech and many religious identities are facing threat from communal forces,” said Khayal.
  • “This is a wave of protest to safeguard the freedom to express our opinions… How can writers remain silent in this atmosphere of injustice,” said Punjabi writer Patar.
  • But some writers advised caution, saying they “may be playing into the hands of the government”. “I respect their sentiment. But if this (returning of award) happens for too long, the goverment may take over the Akademi. If the institution is gone, we are lost. We will lose everything we were fighting for. We may be playing into the hands of the government,” said Akademi awardee and senior Hindi writer Mridula Garg.
    While she agreed that the Akademi needed to be strengthened, she questioned the method. “We are against the government, not against the Akademi. The Akademi has always been silent on such issues. Did it speak when Pash was killed or Man Bahadur Singh was killed. We insult the jury by returning the award,” she said.
  • “Giving up awards and resigning from posts is insignificant and one should bring about a bigger revolution,” said Munawwar Rana, who is recovering after cancer surgery. “It is only when litterateurs sit on strike that Saraswati will be revered in this country the way Lakshmi is.”

6. What government officials said in reply of the actions of Litterateurs?

  • Cultural Minister, Mahesh Sharma replied, “If they say they are unable to write, let them first stop writing. We will then see.”
    He further said, “They are protesting against M.M Kalburgi’s murder. We are with them in this protest but they have nay complaint then they should send it to the Chief Minister or Home Minister. They have not done that.”
  • BJP National Secretary, Tarun Chugh questioned why had they not done so over violence against Kashmiri Pandits or Anti- Sikh riots.
    “Why did they tolerate the targeting of Kashmiri Pandits and maintained silence when they were forced to flee from Kashmir Valley and live like refugees in their own country. Why did they remain silent when more than 3,000 sikhs were butchered in Delhi” , he said.
  • RSS intervened in the protest of litterateurs. It said, “ Some pen artists afflicted with the disease of secularism have returned their medals to protest attempts at destroying Hindu religion and destroying India. No matter which government the country wants, nothing but the Nehruvian model is acceptable to them.”
    It said , “ These writers did not utter a word on Hindus displaced from Kashmir because in their view Hindus do not have any human rights.”
    An editorial in RSS said, “ These intellectuals were not hurt when they accepted the honours from those guilty of Anti-Sikh riots.”
    He also claimed Jawaharlal Nehru had in 1938 written to Mohammad Ali Jinnah acknowledging cow slaughter as the “fundamental right” of Muslims.
    RSS further said, “ But now, after the rule has changed, the writers are unable to tolerate it. The intolerant intellectuals have made known their restlessness. They are restless because the ‘chair’ has gone, it hurts them.”

7. What is going to happen next?
The Akademi under pressure has called an emergency meeting of its Executive Board on October 23,2015 to deliberate on the issue. The institution will discuss the reasons and will request the litterateurs to not return the prestigious award. This year’s announcement of awards is just coming after one month. Some writers have pointed out that if the controversy concludes with the destruction of the authority of the Akademi, then sudden action would be taken for the government to take it over.

[author image=”” ]I am Ratika Bhardwaj,student of Bharati College,Delhi University.I am doing my graduation from English Honours.I usually like to read and write short poems and articles on social issues.[/author]

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