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Protesters disrupt Sahitya Akademi award ceremony

The presentation ceremony for the prestigious Sahitya Akademi Awards at the Kamani auditorium on Tuesday evening was disrupted by the members of a Right-wing group...

Written by Deepu Sebastian Edmond | New Delhi |
February 17, 2010 1:02:09 am

The presentation ceremony for the prestigious Sahitya Akademi Awards at the Kamani auditorium on Tuesday evening was disrupted by the members of a Right-wing group,who were protesting the honour being given to Telugu writer Yarlagadda Lakshmi Prasad.

Prasad,who received the Padma Shri in 2003 and was a member of the Rajya Sabha from 1996 to 2002,received the award for his Telugu novel Draupadi. This is Prasad’s second Akademi award,having previously won n 1992 in the translation category.

Right-wing groups have raised a furore on the issue earlier as well,objecting to the way Prasad has chosen to portray Draupadi in his novel. Protests were staged in Andhra Pradesh calling a ban on the book,especially after the announcement of the Sahitya Akademi award. Andhra Pradesh State Human Rights Commission had reportedly taken note of these incidents.

“About 40 people stood up in the auditorium and started shouting slogans when the author was called upon to receive the award around 6 pm. The protest went on for about 15 minutes. The award nevertheless was presented without incident,” Secretary of the Southern Regional office of the Akademi,Gunasekaran,said.

“I am sure all those creating problems have not read the book. If they did,they would have found that I was in no way trying to degrade Draupadi,whom I hold in high esteem,” Prasad said later. The novel was an attempt to discuss the different facets of Draupadi’s fascinating character,he added.

“The novel was first serialised as a popular Telugu weekly in 2006,and was later made into a television series. There were no protests then. This protest is a stunt,” Gunasekaran added. He pointed out that the award was decided by an independent jury and the Sahitya Akademi interfered in no way.

The Telugu award was decided by a three-member committee comprising eminent scholar Bethavolu Ramabrahmam,noted writer and Sahitya Academy award recipient Kalipatnam Rama Rao and V S Rama Devi,former Karnataka governor.

“A few people in the auditorium were shouting that Draupadi had been depicted in a wrong manner,” former secretary of the Sahitya Akademi K Satchidanandan said. “I do not know what the right depiction is. Neither do I know who should prescribe it,” he added.

The Sahitya Akademi’s booklet described the title character of the novel as a “synonym of glorious and complete womanhood who faces several unforeseen events with remarkable strength and grace”. It went on to hail the work as a “valuable contribution to Indian writing in Telugu”.

No arrests have been made yet. The name of the organisation could not be confirmed.

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