Mumbai: Eight writers on Friday approached the state government to return their awards in protest of recent sectarian killings in the country. Sambhaji Bhagat, Pradnya Pawar, Yeshu Patil, Urmila Pawar, Mukund Kule, Vasant Patankar, Milind Malshe, Harsihchandra Thorat and Ganesh Vispute returned their state-awarded honours.
Their actions has prompted some criticism from members of India’s literary community, including the chairman of the academy, and several other recipients of its awards, who say the institution is an apolitical one that has seldom taken a stance on incidents involving writers in the past.
“I have returned my cheque of Rs 50,000 that I received in 2015. The reason is the spate of attacks and killings in the country. The Prime Minister does not speak and when he does, it is not clear what he means. The Chief Minister was standing with a Sangh outfit members, praying. He should tell us which Rashtra he was praying for? Hindu Rashtra or Lok Rashtra? There needs to be clarity on their policy,” said Sambhaji Bhagat.
Pradnya Pawar, another awardee, said, “This is symbolic protest.” The writers were to attend a press conference organised by Urdu Markaz, on the theme ‘Writers for Secular India’ at the Marathi Patrakar Sangh. They, however, missed it as the Chief Minister was not around to collect their letter.
Farid Khan of Urdu Markaz said, “It is hilarious that the authorities call returning of awards a plan.” Ram Puniyani, another writer, said, “There has been a 40 per cent rise in communal violence in the lasy one-and-a-half years.”
“Some of the people who have been protesting have taken loans to return the award,” claimed Kapil Patil, member of legislative council, who too was part of the meeting.
Meanwhile, Sanatan Sanstha said it will be organising a two-day “public interaction meeting” programme in Thane and Mumbai on October 24 and 25, “to dispel misinformation”.
Many feel the literary community is facing increasing hostility from hard-line Hindus and the current government
Several writers in India have relinquished awards from one of the country’s top literary institutions over the past week, in a symbolic show of protest against what they say is a growing disregard for freedom of speech under the government of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
As of Friday, a total of 53 writers from across the country had given back awards from the Sahitya Akademi, or the National Academy of Letters, according to the Indian Express newspaper. A few have also resigned from positions they held within the prestigious government-funded but autonomous literary body.