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Now writer Shashi Deshpande quits Sahitya Akademi: ‘Silence a form of abetment’

The Akademi is yet to make a statement on the death. Deshpande, also an Akademi winner, said “silence is a form of abetment”.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
Updated: October 10, 2015 10:57:18 am

Writer Shashi Deshpande Friday resigned from the Sahitya Akademi General Council, saying she is “deeply distressed by the silence of the Akademi on the murder of Professor M M Kalburgi”. Kalburgi, a Kannada writer, scholar and winner of the Akademi award, was shot dead by unidentified assailants in Dharwad in August.

The Akademi is yet to make a statement on the death. Deshpande, also an Akademi winner, said “silence is a form of abetment”. However, the body’s chairperson Vishwanath Prasad Tiwari told The Indian Express, “There is no convention for the Akademi to make statements on such issues.”

Deshpande’s resignation comes after three writers — Uday Prakash, Nayantara Sahgal and Ashok Vajpeyi — returned their Akademi awards as protest against Kalburgi’s killing, and the government’s and Prime Minister’s silence on the issue. Six Kannada and an Urdu writer have also returned literary awards given by the state government as a mark of protest.

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“I knew Kalburgi. I was upset ever since I heard about his death. I was born and brought up in Dharwad. He also lived in Dharwad. I thought there would be some statement, some regret (by the Akademi) over the manner of his death. It was not an ordinary death. He was killed because of his opinions and ideas. I thought the least I can do now is to move out of the association that does not speak for its members,” Deshpande told The Indian Express.

In a letter to Tiwari and other office-bearers of the Akademi, Deshpande wrote, “Professor Kalburgi was a noted scholar, and a good and honest human being; he was also a Sahitya Akademi awardee and a member of its General Council until recently. If the Akademi, the premier literary organisation in the country, cannot stand up against such an act of violence against a writer, if the Akademi remains silent about this attack on one of its own, what hope do we have of fighting the growing intolerance in our country?”

She added, “It has also become clear that writers, who are supposed to be the conscience-keepers of society, are no longer considered intellectual leaders; their voices no longer matter. Perhaps this is the right time for writers to reclaim their voices.”

Noting that “silence is a form of abetment”, she wrote that considering “the Akademi’s failure to stand up for its community of writers and scholars, I am, out of a sense of strong disappointment, offering my resignation from the General Council of the Sahitya Akademi”.

“I do this with regret, and with the hope that the Akademi will go beyond organising programmes, and giving prizes, to being involved with crucial issues that affect Indian writers’ freedom to speak and write,” she wrote.

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