SEVEN writers from Maharashtra, including two from Pune, and a publisher from the city, on Tuesday decided to return the awards conferred on them by the state government and join several other literary figures who have, in the past three days, decided to return their national awards to protest against the “murders of rationalists” and “bid to thwart freedom of speech guaranteed by the Constitution”.
Pune-based writers Sanjay Bhaskar Joshi and Ganesh Visputey, and publisher Yeshu Patil of Shabda Prakashan announced that they would return the literary awards given by the state government. Thane-based writer and poet Pradnya Daya Pawar, Mumbai-based Harishchandra Thorat and three writers from the Konkan region, Pravin Bandekar of Sawantwadi, Veerdhawal Parab of Vengurla and Govind Kajarekar, also from Sawantwadi, announced that they too would return the awards they had received.
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Speaking to The Indian Express over phone from Sawantwadi, Bandekar, who had received the award for his collection of poems “Yeru Mhane” and whose novel “Chalegat” had been critically acclaimed, said, “There have been attacks on writers and thinkers. Several of them have received threats. And it seems the government doesn’t want to take any action nor is serious about doing anything in the matter. We would be returning the mementos and the award money we received. We would also be handing over a letter, stating the reason behind this, to the district collector (Sindhudurg) on Wednesday.”
He added, “Returning the award is just the beginning. We would continue to voice our dissent through our writings.”
Pune-based Sanjay Bhaskar Joshi, who has received state awards for his two novels, said, “We are being asked a question, ‘Why now?’ I think it has come to such a stage that we cannot tolerate it anymore. Things have come to a boiling point… Since the last several days, we are being told what not to watch, what not to read and even what not to eat. There are frequent incidents of freedom of speech and expression being curbed. This should not be construed as a protest against one particular party. Rather, it is a warning to other parties too. I hope more writers would come forward and joint this protest.”
Several Sahitya Akademi award recipients have announced that they would be returning their awards.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Pune-based poet, writer and critic Ganesh Visputey said, “These are times when freedom of speech and expression, which are the bedrock of democracy, are being snatched away by those in power. The returning of awards and award money is a symbol of our anger towards the government. But this should not be looked as a sign of our helplessness. Our protest will intensify after this.”
The wave of protest by writers across the country started after nine writers returned their Sahitya Akademi awards on Sunday. Several others announced their decision on Monday.