Novelist Dalip Kaur Tiwana to return Padma Shri, more writers protest

Chandigarh: Eighty-year-old Dalip Kaur Tiwana, known as the leading novelist and short-story writer in contemporary Punjabi literature, announced on Tuesday evening that she is returning her Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award. Tiwana is the first to give up the Padma Award, expressing “solidarity with other writers who are protesting against the increasing cultural intolerance in our society and politics.”

“To kill those who stand for truth and justice put us to shame in the eyes of the world and God. In protest, therefore, I return the Padma Shri award”, said Tiwana.

Tiwana received the Padma Shri in 2004 for Literature and Education, as well as the Sahitya Akademi Award and retired as a professor of Punjabi from Punjabi University, Patiala. While speaking to The Indian Express, Tiwana said, “I had something big to give up, for a cause I believe in and which is close to my heart, and this is my way of protest. Minorities are being crushed, and writers and rationalists are being murdered, and no one is allowed to speak. ’’

A writer-in-residence at Punjabi University, Patiala, Tiwana joins a long list of writers and poets renouncing their awards over threat to free speech and creative freedom. “In this land of Gautama Buddha and Guru Nanak Dev, the atrocities committed on the Sikhs in 1984 and on the Muslims currently because of communalism are an utter disgrace to our state and society. India, adds Tiwana is land of saints, where Gautama Buddha and Guru Nanak Dev lived and , where texts like the Gita and Guru Granth Sahib have showed us a way of peace, truth, equality and justice. And in the 21st century, we are killing those who stand up for truth; it’s a shame in the eyes of God. In this country and in Punjab, people from any caste and creed are welcomed with open arms, and whichever road you take, will lead to God,’’ added Tiwana, who was given the Akademi award in 1971 for her novel ‘Eho hamara jivana’ (This our life), making her one of the youngest authors to get the prestigious award. She was also honoured with the Shiromani Sahitkar Award by the state’s languages department in 1987. The characters in Tiwana’s novels and short-stories are the downtrodden, rural people with suppressed desires and the complex inner conflict of the female psyche is the main subject of her works. Apart from fiction, Tiwana has written two books on literary criticism too. “I laud this form of protest, and can hope this action of us writers, will make the common people think and also give them a voice and remind them that secularism is most important.”