Writers’ protest only ho-halla, say Sahitya Akademi members

They termed the protest “ho-halla (loud clamour)” and also rejected the contention of writers that freedom of speech is threatened under the present BJP government.

By: Express News Service | Abuja/ New Delhi, | Updated: October 23, 2015 7:32 am
Sahitya Akademi, Sahitya Akademi awards, Sahitya Akademi award winners, Writers protest, Sahitya Akademi writers, Art historian Rainer Rochlitz, Jawaharlal Nehru, IE columnist The Sahitya Akademi is India’s premier institution of letters, with a stated commitment to “promoting Indian literature throughout the world”.

A day before the executive board of the Sahitya Akademi holds an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis caused following the protest by the writers, some board members Thursday said the writers should not have returned their awards.

They termed the protest “ho-halla (loud clamour)” and also rejected the contention of writers that freedom of speech is threatened under the present BJP government.

The meeting is keenly awaited as several writers, including English author Vikram Seth, have said they will decide their future action on the basis of the Akademi’s resolution over the recent incidents. An “unsatisfactory” resolution might trigger a fresh round of protests.

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“Returning of these awards is not right. These writers say that the Sahitya Akademi is not doing anything, but the circumstances we are working in must be understood,” said board member Gangadhar Hansdah.

About the Akademi’s stand on safety of writers and the government’s responsibility, he said: “We have no legal powers to give them protection. How can we pass resolution against the government, it has not done anything against the writers. Some writers are raising their voice against the government, but it’s their personal choice. Aisa koi mahaul nahi hai ki lage ki freedom of speech ko khatra hai (The atmosphere isn’t such so as to make one feel that there is threat to freedom of speech).”

Another member Surya Prasad Dixit termed the protest as “ho-halla (loud clamour)”. “If there is any threat (to freedom of expression) then we must present the case with evidence and submit to the government. Ho-halla jyada hua hai (A lot of noise has been made),” he said.

On attacks on minorities and writers, he said: “The government is not responsible for whatever has happened. I don’t see any threat to freedom of speech.”

About the killing of a Muslim man in Dadri that triggered the protest, he said: “It was a smaller incident. Every murder should be condemned but we need to calibrate our response. Writers should not have returned their awards, it has hurt the Akademi.”

Arjun Dev Charan, another member, agreed and hinted at a possible confrontation of the Akademi with writers.

Rajasthani author returns award

Jaipur: After Nand Bhardwaj, Rajasthani author Ambika Dutt has returned his Sahitya Akademi award with an appeal to society “to come together”. “There shouldn’t be so much fanaticism and intolerance in the society. The writers’ attempt should be to see that positive thoughts flow in society and hold it together. But today, intolerance has grown. Hence, I have decided to return my award to send a message to society, to get people talking and for them to come together,” the 59-year-old said.

Dutt wrote to the Akademi Thursday, saying he was giving up the award and the Rs 1 lakh prize money presented to him in 2013 for his poetry collection Aanthyoi Nahi Din Hal.

A Rajasthan Administrative Service (RAS) officer, Dutt is currently the Registrar of University of Kota and has earlier served at District Excise Officer of Kota. ENS

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