Dalip Kaur Tiwana, a novelist and short story writer from Punjabi, announced Tuesday that she is returning her Padma Shri, the country’s fourth highest civilian award. Tiwana, 80, is the first to give up a Padma award to express “solidarity with writers who are protesting against increasing cultural intolerance in our society and politics”.
Assamese litterateur and journalist Homen Borgohain also returned his Sahitya Akademi award, which he received in 1978 for his novel Pita Putra. He cited the killing of a man in Dadri over rumours of cow slaughter as the trigger, and said he was protesting against the “growing fascist tendency in the country” and “evil forces” that are “trying to hit hard at the core ideology of Indian civilisation and culture”.
Tiwana, who received the Padma Shri in 2004 for Literature and Education, is also the recipient of a Sahitya Akademi Award. “I had something big to give up, for a cause I believe in and which is close to my heart, and this is my way of protest. Minorities are being crushed and writers and rationalists are being murdered, and no one is allowed to speak,” Tiwana told The Indian Express.
Tiwana, who used teach Punjabi at Patiala’s Punjab University and is now a writer-in-residence there, added, “In this land of Gautama Buddha and Guru Nanak Dev, the atrocities committed on the Sikhs in 1984 and on the Muslims currently because of communalism are an utter disgrace to our state and society.”
“In the 21st century, we are killing those who stand up for truth; it’s a shame in the eyes of god,” Tiwana, who received the Akademi award in 1971 for her novel Eho Hamara Jivana (This our life), said. “I laud this form of protest and hope this will make common people think and also give them a voice and remind them that secularism is most important.”