Acclaimed poet and essayist Jayant Mahapatra has written to President Pranab Mukherjee, expressing his desire to return his Padma Shri award in protest against the growing “moral asymmetry” in the country.
In his letter to the President on Saturday, Mahapatra — a 2009 Padma Shri winner — said his decision was “delayed”.
“But I wanted to raise my voice against the growing moral asymmetry in our country. I feel writers and poets are no longer first class citizens in the country. I believe our freedom is being curtailed,” Mahapatra told The Indian Express.
Two years ago, the 87-year-old had donated his Padma Shri award, his Sahitya Akademi award, and several state literary awards, along with over 4,000 books, to the heritage library of Fakir Mohan University in Balasore district, where he served as a professor of physics.
“I may not be able return the citation and the plaque as they are with the library. I wanted to lodge a symbolic protest,” said the poet, who has not keeping well.
Mahapatra said he was hurt by the government’s inaction on the recent incidents including the Dadri lynching as well as utterances and actions of several politicians, including Tamil Nadu CM Jayalaithaa.
“My protest is not against a particular party. I am as much hurt by Dadri issue, Jayalaithaa’s police arresting Kovan as well as utterances of Assam Governor on Hindustan (being) for Hindus. I believe there is genuine curtailment of freedom,” he said.