Firm over not taking back her Sahitya Akademi award, noted writer Nayantara Sahgal on Sunday said the ‘Award Wapasi’ campaign has been a big success and that the writers’ protest against intolerance continues.
In a letter to Sahitya Akademi secretary K Sreenivasarao, Sahgal said, “Let me make it clear that I have in no way ‘reconsidered’ my decision (to take back the award). My protest and that of other writers continues against the continuing attacks on freedom of expression”.
The 88-year-old niece of former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had spearheaded the ‘Award Wapasi’ campaign in October, 2015. Asked by PTI about how successful the writers have been in getting their voices heard, Sahgal said, “It has already yielded huge results because the whole country is responding – not only writers. Historians, scientists, sociologists, filmstars, filmmakers, everybody is responding.”
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“It is only the government which is not responding. Because the government is a Hindutva government which has banned all disagreement. They (government) can’t ban it (free speech) because we will speak, but they will punish us,” said the author who spoke on intolerance at the Tata Steel Kolkata Literary Meet (TSKLM).
In the letter she reminded the literary body that she had returned the award in protest against the “Akademi’s silence over the murder of Kannada writer M M Kalburgi and earlier of Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare in Maharashtra.” She said it is Sahitya Akademi which seems to have done some reconsidering since its letter says that the Akademi has no policy of accepting returned awards.
“It is a pity that the Akademi has taken so many months to make this statement of policy. The cheque I sent you in October is in any case no longer valid,” the letter reads. The author said if they are returning the now invalid cheque the decision was theirs and not hers.
The Akademi had earlier said they are returning the cheques as there was no provision in its constitution to take back any honour once conferred upon a writer. Asked about the timing of the decision, she said, “I think it has a lot to do with Rohith’s suicide (in Hyderabad Central University) which I call murder. It is as good as murder. Technically suicide, but he was driven to murder.”