THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Former Kendra Sahitya Akademi secretary and poet K Satchidanandan’s act of accepting a top fellowship at the prestigious Indian Institute of Advanced Studies (IIAS) in Shimla, primarily funded by the Ministry of Human Resources Development, Government of India, has raised many an eyebrow. Writers from the left stream and members of the right wing intelligentsia have termed it a sheer case of opportunism.
It was in the second week of October that Satchidanandan joined ranks with Nayantara Sahgal and Ashok Vajpeyi, who returned their Sahithya Akademi awards to protest against ‘the rising tide of intolerance in the country’ under the Narendra Modi Government and quit all his positions in the Akademi. At the time he decided to quit the Akademi membership, he had already accepted the National Fellow status at IIAS for a period of two years.
Responding to The Sunday Standard query on Satchidanandan accepting the fellowship, B S Harisankar, one of the functionaries of India Policy Foundation, a pro-RSS think-tank NGO based in New Delhi, said that it was during the tenure of the A B Vajpayee government that Satchidanandan assumed office of secretary of Kendra Sahitya Akademi. He did not find the BJP a fascist party and stayed in the Akademi for 13 years.
“During this period there were several instances of assault on human rights and freedom of expression in states like West Bengal under the CPM rule. Nandigram and Singur violence in 2007 had prompted writers like Mahasweta Devi to come out against the CPM. But Satchidanandan had neither uttered a single word against it nor quit his position,” he said.
However, Satchidanandan’s decision to accept the fellowship has not been taken well by the writer community. Writer T P Rajeevan has already come out with an article criticising him in a Malayalam magazine.
Literary critic K S Ravikumar, who quit the membership of the Kendra Sahitya Akademi, along with Satchidanandan, said that there was a double standard in the act of Satchidanandan.
“I don’t want to question the anti-fascist stances of Satchidanandan. But his decision to accept the fellowship at an institute funded by the Union HRD Ministry immediately after quitting the Akademi, seemed to be illogical and the people may find some kind of opportunism in it,” Ravikumar said.
He reiterated that he did not want to review his decision to quit the Akademi membership as he was standing by his decision though the Akademi had already condemned the killing of the writers.
Writer Sara Joseph, who returned her Sahitya Akademi award, told The Sunday Standard that she did not want to comment on Satchidanandan’s decision. “I don’t want to make any comment. My view is that we need to consider only his good intentions. I have nothing more to comment,” she said.
Short-story writer P K Parakkadavu, who resigned as member of the Sahitya Akademi general council, however, said that Satchidanandan always had a consistent stand against fascism.