One of Kannada literature’s foremost contemporary writers Devanuru Mahadeva, 67, announced his decision to return his Padma Shri and Central Sahitya Akademi awards in his home town of Mysuru Saturday.
The fiery Dalit writer said in a statement that he had decided to join the legion of writers who returned awards over the past month to protest the “atmosphere of intolerance” in the country. Though he had resisted joining other writers in returning his award, Mahadeva said he has been compelled to do so because some writers and artists have come out in support of the ruling BJP government.
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“I have always believed that for every government to remain sensitive and society-oriented, writers, artists and intellectuals should act like the restraining bridle. However, much against my nature, I have controlled myself from reacting in the present context of ‘returning awards against intolerance’. But when some writers and artists organised themselves in support of the ruling government, I felt it was a sure sign of evil. Disgusted by this development, I am now returning the Central Sahitya Akademi award and the Padma Shri award,’’ Mahadeva said in his statement.
Mahadeva is a 1990 Sahitya Akademi award winner for his novel Kusuma Baale and 2011 Padma Shri receipient.
“The dreams nurtured by our freedom struggle — freedom of expression, tolerance and social justice — have somehow dwindled after the Nehru era and are now in jeopardy. Those values may not be tangible or materially visible, but they are like the very breath of the cultural, social India we need to build. The lack of this awareness appears to be the reason for today’s intolerance,’’ he said.
Justification by functionaries in the central government of incidents like the Dadri killing and other instances of intolerance such as dismissal of protests by writers as acts of “intellectual intolerance towards Modi” are “knowingly or unknowingly provoking greater intolerance and violence in society’’, he added.
“The violent incidents of intolerance which used to take place in a clandestine manner are now happening in broad daylight. Never in the past had there been such a situation. Only if the Centre introspects on this will it be able to provide governance,’’ he added.