Let (writers) stop writing, then we will see: Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma

Besides, two Kannada writers, G N Ranganatha Rao and D N Srinath, returned Sahitya Akademi prizes for translation, while theatre artist Maya Krishna Rao returned her Sangeet Natak Akademi award.

Written by Ashutosh Bhardwaj | New Delhi | Updated: October 13, 2015 6:10 am
Sahitya Akademi, Sahitya Akademi winners, Mahesh Sharma, Sahitya award winners, Akademi winners, Sahitya Akademi news, sahitya akademi news, indian express, India news Speaking to The Indian Express, Sharma said: “This is an award given by writers to writers. It has nothing to do with the government. It is their personal choice to return it… we accept it.”

As more writers returned their Sahitya Akademi awards on Monday to protest against the silence of the central government and the Akademi over the threat to free speech, Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma struck back, saying, “If they say they are unable to write, let them first stop writing. We will then see.”

Speaking to The Indian Express, Sharma said: “This is an award given by writers to writers. It has nothing to do with the government. It is their personal choice to return it… we accept it.”

Meanwhile, the Akademi called an emergency meeting of its executive board on October 23 to discuss the situation.

Kashmiri writer Ghulam Nabi Khayal, noted Gujarati poet Anil Joshi, Kannada writer Rahamath Tarikere and five writers from Punjab — Surjit Patar, Chaman Lal, Baldev Singh Sadaknama, Jaswinder and Darshan Buttar — on Monday joined the list of writers who have decided to return their Akademi awards, taking the total number to 23.

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Besides, two Kannada writers, G N Ranganatha Rao and D N Srinath, returned Sahitya Akademi prizes for translation, while theatre artist Maya Krishna Rao returned her Sangeet Natak Akademi award.

Booker winner Salman Rushdie also expressed solidarity with the writers and tweeted: “I support # Nayantara Sahgal and many other writers protesting to the Sahitya Akademi. Alarming times for free expression in India.”

Questioning the ideologies and motives of these writers, Sharma said: “Who are they, which ideology do they belong to should also be considered. This issue is also important. There have been so many riots earlier. When did they last return their awards?”

He said: “They are protesting against (Kannada writer M M) Kalburgi’s murder. We are with them in this protest. But they should know that law and order is a state subject. If they have any complaint, they should send it to the chief minister, home minister. They have not done that.”

In Vadodara, Joshi said: “The atmosphere has become hateful. There is no breathing space and no freedom of expression for literary writers. It is like losing oxygen because we are writers who wish for free breathing space. I do not need an oxygen cylinder in the form of awards… The attack on writers is unfortunate and has taken away the freedom of expression.” Joshi received the Akademi award in 1990 for his collection of essays.

“What is happening in India pains me. To return an award is the only way to express my resentment… As a person, I want live in a country that is secular, not one where freedom of speech and many religious identities are facing threat from communal forces,” said Khayal, who got the Akademi award in 1975.

“This is a wave of protest to safeguard the freedom to express our opinions… How can writers remain silent in this atmosphere of injustice,” said Punjabi writer Patar.

But some writers advised caution, saying they “may be playing into the hands of the government”. “I respect their sentiment. But if this (returning of award) happens for too long, the goverment may take over the Akademi. If the institution is gone, we are lost. We will lose everything we were fighting for. We may be playing into the hands of the government,” said Akademi awardee and senior Hindi writer Mridula Garg.

While she agreed that the Akademi needed to be strengthened, she questioned the method. “We are against the government, not against the Akademi. The Akademi has always been silent on such issues. Did it speak when Pash was killed or Man Bahadur Singh was killed. We insult the jury by returning the award,” she said.

The 27-member executive board, representing writers from 24 languages of the country, is set to discuss the Akademi’s response at its emergency meeting on October 23. “I will bring the issue before the board. I will act as per its directions,” said Akademi president Vishwanath Prasad Tiwari.

Meanwhile, Konkani writer N Shivdas, who had returned his Akademi award on Sunday, today told The Indian Express that some Konkani writers who had received the Akademi award “have come together”. “On Wednesday, at least 15 recipients are expected to meet in Goa and decide the future course of action,” he said.

— With ENS inputs from Srinagar, Vadodara, Chandigarh and Pune.

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First Published on: October 13, 2015 3:21 am
  1. P
    Pinak Choudhury
    Oct 13, 2015 at 3:32 am
    Right antibiotics 4 these political bacteria, so called writters.
    Reply
    1. B
      Bk
      Oct 13, 2015 at 6:43 am
      When these writers return the award, have they also returned the award money? Or is it just the certificate? Most of these writers are irrelevant and are trying to get some news coverage with this stunt.
      Reply
      1. H
        ha ha
        Oct 13, 2015 at 7:08 am
        The slavishness of the bhaktards (apologists of the politics of hatred and division practised by the BJP and its Parivar) is more than evident through their comments. Voices of sanity and reason are to them--much as they are to the politicos this 'culture' minister represents--voices of treason that need to be shut up and condemned to the countries ruled by their ideological cousins in the middle east, etc.
        Reply
        1. D
          Desai
          Oct 13, 2015 at 7:01 pm
          Ha
          Reply
          1. K
            Kanu Patel
            Oct 13, 2015 at 9:13 am
            WHAT IS THE PROBLEM OF THE WRITERS IS OUT OF THE RANGE OF UNDERSTANDING OF A COMMON CITIZEN. WHO STOPS THEIR OXYGEN FOR FREE BREATHING ? HOW ? PEOPLE ARE FREE TO EXPRESS . AN YOUNG COMMUNITY LEADER OF 22 YEARS IS CHALLENGING THE GOVERNMENT IN GUJARAT FOR HIS RIGHTS. ARE THEY FOLLOWING MS. SAHGAL TO BE COUNTED FOR ?
            Reply
            1. K
              KK
              Oct 13, 2015 at 2:24 pm
              Small man in an insignificant ministry. "Culture" in this context means dance, music, fine arts which this ministry has to encourage. RSS interprets "culture" as tradition, religion, social norms and morality. The fun is just beginning.
              Reply
              1. G
                George
                Oct 13, 2015 at 8:39 am
                Most of these writers are low level achievers and want to return to limelight.i heard Nayantara Sahgal speak. It was pathetic. I wondered what and how she could write. Most of these writers resort to plagiarism.these congress followers cannot accept bjp and modi
                Reply
                1. G
                  George
                  Oct 13, 2015 at 8:40 am
                  Most of these writers are low level achievers and want to return to limelight.i heard Nayantara Sahgal speak. It was pathetic. I wondered what and how she could write. Most of these writers resort to plagiarism.these congress followers cannot accept bjp and modi
                  Reply
                  1. L
                    Logical Indian
                    Oct 13, 2015 at 8:26 am
                    I am ashamed that someone like him is holding the position of culture minister.The writers may be returning the awards for whatever reasons but his response and tone smacks of arrogance .He could have instead discussed the matter in detail with all the writers who chose to return their awards and could have sorted out the mess.
                    Reply
                    1. K
                      K SHESHU
                      Oct 13, 2015 at 8:35 am
                      If writers stop writing, singers singing, painters stop painting, analysts stop analysing, ... then what ! The work of cultural ministry will be substantially reduced. Unemployment will rise as these artistes will be rendered wor(th)kless !
                      Reply
                      1. T
                        Taz S
                        Oct 13, 2015 at 11:07 am
                        Blind feku bhakt spotted...
                        Reply
                        1. A
                          Abhijit Bhattacharya
                          Oct 13, 2015 at 2:36 pm
                          India can hold its head high because of papers like Indian Express who never shied away from taking stand against the government of the day. The bhakts were happy when it was exposing the UPA government, but now can't digest IE's stand against the present government of illiterate bigots
                          Reply
                          1. A
                            Achal
                            Oct 13, 2015 at 7:36 am
                            It looks writers have become intolerant. Instead of returning award they should write. A recent addition to this is Salman Rushdie. He never returned any of his awards or gave this type of statement when Europe and US were destroying middle East. When they were giving birth to Taliban. Look at the crisis that is unfolding in Syria. Not a word. British while colonizing India used the bad practices prevalent in India to legitimize their rule. But more bad practices were prevalent in Britain and other colonial powers. The worst one being imperialism and slavery. But they were successful and ruled this country for almost 3 decades. BJP has shown democratic process and elected Modi ji as its PM candidate. All writers are showing that 33% voters who voted for Modi ji are intolerant. They should criticize the election process if they don't agree with the results. Ashok Vajpayee ji never wrote a word against Arju Singh ji who helped Anderson to leave India. In fact whenever he has written anything about Arjun Singh ji, he has just showered praise for him. Why he is intolerant with Modi ji. Swami Shardhanand and Ganeshshankar Vidyarthi were murdered before independence due to intolerance. Intolerance exists in India for very long time. The failure for nt making a matured country lies with the rulers who ruled this country for sixty years and the writers who are now showing solidarity never showed solidarity against intolerance during non Modi era. Modi ji is the first majority chosen PM who comes from the backward cl (telli) and Congress and elite writers are not able to digest this reality which is the result of Indian consution in which the elite writers do not believe.
                            Reply
                            1. A
                              Achal
                              Oct 13, 2015 at 7:37 am
                              Read 3 decades as 3 centuries
                              Reply
                              1. A
                                Aditya Samdershi
                                Oct 13, 2015 at 10:15 pm
                                More than the silence of Prime Minister, the rebuttal of BJP ministers are astonishing. The comments made by some of the readers as they are expecting writers to return the award with award money and interest. Oh! This is new low India has achieved. Are we so insensitive? Really? Not. These are writers, writing is an art of creation, it may support some ideology or not, it must be respected for the sake of appreciation of creativity.
                                Reply
                                1. B
                                  Bhaskar Dihingia
                                  Oct 13, 2015 at 1:32 pm
                                  What does he want / expect to see? :-D Mr. Defense Minister, please look away. Nothing to learn from your mate!! "Oh horror, horror, horror!!"
                                  Reply
                                  1. A
                                    Ajay Sunder
                                    Oct 13, 2015 at 3:43 pm
                                    The Hon'ble gentleman and the lady are highly respected for their personal integrity and professional commitment You may call them whatever you like, it does not matter. Both of them have huge fan base who will continue to admire them in spite of people like you. Incidentally, people are waiting anxiously when will the present government learn that Gajenear Chauhan is not fit to be the chairperson of FTII.
                                    Reply
                                    1. D
                                      Diplomat
                                      Oct 13, 2015 at 4:48 pm
                                      1. People who have returned the awards are writers from different regions. Write in different languages in various genres and have different thought processes. They are not seen on any active political platforms despite some of them were related to politicians of the past. If so many of them decide to protest certain issue and return the awards them something is amiss. Political & religious leaders and their patrons must see this clearly and think. They need to change their ways. 2. No one had said that the murders of the rationalists or event in Dadri were political. However loose talk by politicians (and silence from PM) has mixed religious and political together. People who think and love its citizens need to protest and that's being done.
                                      Reply
                                      1. A
                                        anil
                                        Oct 13, 2015 at 12:38 pm
                                        They did not return their awards when Salman Rushdie's book was first banned by India . They did not return when Taslima was physically abused in hyderabad by muslim goons. They did not return their awards when a professor's palm was chopped off because he questioned a so called prophet . They did not return after Sikh macre or post-Godhra pogrom. So let them return, who cares. Now everybody reads and thinks in English. We have even do not respect our mother tongues.
                                        Reply
                                        1. A
                                          An
                                          Oct 13, 2015 at 12:20 pm
                                          Modi Mukt Bharat; Swachh Bharat, Swatantra Bharat !!!
                                          Reply
                                          1. A
                                            An
                                            Oct 13, 2015 at 7:36 am
                                            Modi Mukt Bharat; Swachh Bharat, Swatantra Bharat !!!
                                            Reply
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