November 3, 2015 2:56:29 am
THE LIST of artistes and intellectuals returning their awards got another entry on Monday with noted historian and writer from Uttarakhand, Shekhar Pathak, announcing his decision to give up his Padma Shri.
“There is this atmosphere of intolerance in the country. The killings of M M Kalburgi and Govind Pansare, the Dadri lynching, throwing ink at Sudheendra Kulkarni, not allowing Ghulam Ali to sing — I see all this as an attack on our national identity which is one of plurality and diversity. And when the government started mocking the writers who were returning their awards, phir toh bardasht ke bahar tha. What else can writers do if not even protest?” said Pathak over the phone from Nainital. “There is also interference in institutes of history that worries me,” he said.
A former professor of History at the Kumaun University in Uttarakhand and a founder of the Nainital-based People’s Association for Himalaya Area Research (PAHAR), Pathak received the Padma Shri in 2007. “India has so much diversity in language, culture, ecology, and that’s the only way it can be. It is not that killings or riots have never taken place earlier. There were riots in 1984, when even in a place like Nainital, Sikhs were looted. But in recent times incidents of intolerance and violence have accelerated,” said Pathak.
He said another reason that spurred him to return his award was the sustained neglect of the Himalayan region. “Both under the previous government and under this one, no one has done anything for the hills, but things have become worse at present,” said Pathak.
“But what is really under attack is the essence of democracy and humanism. I mean writers like Kalburgi are killed and you are condemning a mild protest by writers? Centuries ago, Kabir spoke up against superstition but he was not killed, so why is this happening now?” said Pathak.
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