NEW DELHI: After a flurry of resignations and returning of awards by the authors citing atmosphere intolerance and silence on part of the country’s premier literary body, the Sahitya Akademi passed a strongly worded resolution condemning the attacks on the writers and asked the centre and the state governments to maintain “ambience of peaceful co-existence” in society.
After its emergency meeting here, Akademi also requested the protesting authors to reconsider their stance and take back their awards. The agency would soon write to all the three dozen-odd writers who have announced the return of their awards.
Till now nearly 36 writers have announced returning of their awards after the killing of Kannada author MM Kalburgi, and rising attacks on rationalists and intellectuals. Akademi sources said till date they have officially received letters for returning awards from 29 writers, while 20 of them have also returned the award money by sending a cheque. As there is no provision of returning the award in Akademi’s rule book, officials said if authors do not take back their cheques or awards nothing could be done about it.
Sahitya Akademi president Vishwanath Prasad Tiwari read the resolution adopted at the marathon meeting of the 27-member executive board, of which three are government nominated officials. The meeting lasted nearly two and a half hours. Four members– Lalit Mangotra, Prem Pradhan, Balchand Nemade and K Satchidananda.
“Sahitya Akademi is deeply pained and strongly condemns the murder of Prof M.M. Kalburgi and the other intellectuals and thinkers. As the only autonomous institution of Indian Literature in all its diversities, the Akademi firmly supports the writers’ right to freedom of expression in all the languages of India and condemns any atrocity against any writer anywhere in the country in the strongest of words and asks Governments at the centre and in the States to take immediate action to bring the culprits to book and to ensure the security of writers now and in the future,” Tiwari said reading from the resolution.
The resolution touched upon even those issues raised by the protesting writers. “The spirit of plurality that Indian culture embodies has been a much sought after ideal for the rest of the world. This is what should be protected.”
“Sahitya Akademi demands that Center and States maintain the ambience of peaceful coexistence in the societies and it urges various communities of our society to put aside the differences on the grounds of caste, religion, region and ideologies,”
"The Akademi appeals to state and central government to take steps to prevent such incidents in the future", Krishnaswamy Nachimuthu, an executive committee board member from Tamil Nadu said emerging from the meet. "All writers stand together in their decision to condemn the killings," Nachimuthu added.
If the Akademi board members were discussing the finer points of the resolution, there was action outside. Two separate groups of writers held their protest marches.
One of the group held protests to condemn attack on writers, and atmoshphere of intolerance in the country, the other group criticised those who have returned their awards saying they had politicised the issue.
Writers in the solidarity march sported black gags and arm bands.
"We are witnessing a rise in intolerance against writers and artists... like it happened at Film Institute in Pune, awards are being returned... some claimed it is "manufactured". What sort of manufacturing? where is such factory where writers are manufactured? We have nothing to throw at the establishment and the Akademi except our awards," poet Keki N Daruwalla said.
English writer Gita Hariharan said, "It is a sad day that writers and artists have to walk with so much police to an institution which supposedly belongs to us. The protest is not just against to what happened to Kalburgi but against a series of incidents that are now hounding writers."
Those in the counter protest march alleged that political conspiracy by writers saying why did not they return awards when Sikh riots, exodus of Kashmiri Pandits took place. The protest was led by JANMAT, with participation by ABVP activists, pro-BJP organisations also submitted a memorandum to the Akademi, questioning the motive of the writers.
Eminent Hindi writer Narendra Kohli told Express that the writers who have returned awards have cited different reasons. “They did not protest when exodus of Kashmiris hindus took place, people were killed in Punjab or even when Taslima Nasreen was attacked. They got awards when other governments were in power. Now when Narendra Modi has come to power they want to sully his reputation. Its a conspiracy.”
“Writers who returned awards. Have they returned the money, the royalities their received on their books. the forigen tripos they enjoyed based on the recognisition they received after the awards..,” Kohli added.