The state’s cultural community has slammed finance minister Arun Jaitley for his Facebook post describing the return of Sahitya Akademi awards by several writers as a “manufactured paper rebellion” against the government.
Over the last three days, over a dozen writers from Maharashtra have announced their decision to return their state awards. Many of them have expressed disappointment over Jaitley’s remarks.
Marathi Dalit writer, Pradnya Daya Pawar, who returned five awards that she had won, said Jaitley’s words reek of apathy. “He calls it ‘a case of ideological intolerance’. But is he showing respect for the writers’ ideology and beliefs?” she said.
Prominent Mumbai-based writer Shanta Gokhale called the finance minister a cynic who thinks of “these incidents only in terms of our image abroad”. “How does protest against the killing of an ordinary Muslim blacksmith in the remote village of Bisara and another of a respected scholar and author in Karnataka with the earlier killings of Dabholkar and Pansare show ideological intolerance?” she asked.
Others such as Marathi poet Hemant Divate have viewed Jaitley’s use of the phrase “paper rebellion” as one that adds insult to injury and term it as an excuse on the part of a government representative to ignore the appeal by writers to make positive changes to the society and rectify the damage done during their term as well as over the years.
”This protest isn’t against the current government alone as Mr Jaitley would like to believe but our protest encompasses the apathy of previous governments too,” pointed out Ramdas Bhatkal of Popular Prakashan, a prominent publishing house of Marathi literature.
Bhatkal, in addition, pointed out that returning awards should be viewed as a non-legal way of Right to Recall. “The Prime Minister recently paid homage to Jayaprakash Narayan, who included Right to Recall as part of his manifesto during his movement. But the government’s callous view towards this dissent is disturbing.”
Ramu Ramanathan, a Mumbai-based thespian and writer of plays such as 3, Sakina Manzil and Cotton 56, Polyester 84, in response to Jaitley’s comments, penned a piece of protest poetry where he calls “our national motto” to be “Bhayamev Jayate (fear prevails)”. He wrote: “The FM says, writers are propagandists/ And the FM and his boss are honourable men. His boss hath brought many a selfie, home to Dilli/ But have the RBI coffers with black money been filled? Alas no! If a writer points this out/ Then he is worse than a lout/ When the humble dal is Rs 200 a kilo, the poor do cry/ Tell me, at such times, should the writer tell a lie.”