Urdu poet Munawwar Rana returns Sahitya Akademi award; 2 more hand over honour

New Delhi(PTI): Urdu poet Munawwar Rana on Sunday joined over 30 authors who have returned Sahitya Akademi award while Hindi writer Kashinath said he was handing over the honour in protest against “irresponsible” comments by various ministers on writers who have been agitating against “rising intolerance”.

Sahitya Akademi

Participating in a televised debate with other writers and politicians, Rana, a big name in contemporary Urdu poetry, said he had decided to return the award because he was dismayed over the recent developments in the country.

“I am returning the Sahitya Akademi award. I won’t accept any award from the government in the future,” he said.

“I come from Rae Bareli, politics runs through the street drains in my city but I never cared for it,” the 62-year-old poet, who was awarded the Sahitya Akademi in 2014 for his book ‘Shahdaba’, said.

“Writers and litterateurs have been associated with one party or the other. Some are said to be linked with Congress while others with BJP. I am a Muslim and some may label me as a Pakistani. Many areas in this country are not linked with electricity but Muslims here are linked to Dawood Ibrahim,” the poet said.

Rana has voiced concerns against the “growing religious intolerance in India.”

Meanwhile, protesting the “irresponsible” remarks made by various Union ministers against fellow Sahitya Akademi award winning writers, who have over the past two weeks announced their decision to return the honours, Hindi writer Kashinath Singh said he will hand over his award and cash prize on Monday.

“Certain ministers from the Centre have made irresponsible remarks against the authors who returned their awards. The authors’ decision have not been taken seriously,” the Varanasi based writer, who won the 2011 award for his fiction “Rehan Par Raghu”, said.

Singh, a former professor at the Banaras Hindu University, known for his novels and short stories, rejected as “very ridiculous”, the allegations that authors were “politically motivated”.

“It is ridiculous to say that the authors are motivated by political parties. Writers are not so foolish to get swayed by anybody. Their actions are against the Akademi’s stance on the tragic incidents in Maharashtra, Karnataka and Dadri. They are not against the Akademi itself,” Singh said.

In a related development, Telugu translator Katyayani Vidmahe has also announced her decision to return her 2013 Kendriya Sahitya Akademi translation award in solidarity with other authors who had given back their Sahitya awards.

“I am returning my award in dissent to a range of incidents like the silencing of the Tamil writer Perumal Murugan, the killing of Kannada writer and Sahitya award winning author M M Kalburgi. This is against the violence of writers and for the freedom of expression,” Vidmahe said.

The Warangal-based writer had received an Akademi award for her ‘Sahityakashamlo Sagam – Streela Astitwa Sahityam – Kavitwam – Katha’, a compilation of essays about literature on gender identity published in 2010.

At least 34 authors including Nayantara Sahgal, Ashok Vajpeyi, Uday Prakash, Keki N Daruwallah, K Veerabhadrappa have returned their Akademi awards, and five writers have stepped down from official positions of the literary body, which in turn has convened an emergency meeting on October 23 to discuss the developments.

While Finance Minister Arun Jaitley described the protests by writers as “manufactured paper rebellion”, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad dubbed it as “motivated” and Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma had accused the authors of “selective outrage”.