Protests of writers against “rising intolerance” in the country continued with two more writers, Urdu poet Munawwar Rana and Telugu writer Katyayani Vidmahe, returning their Sahitya Akademi awards on Sunday.
Nearly 30 writers have returned their Akademi awards so far, while over a dozen have returned other awards they received from the Akademi.
Rana, who had received the award in 2014, made the announcement during a television debate on Sunday. Rana’s son Pabrez Rana told The Indian Express.
“He did not return the award earlier because he felt returning awards was not the solution. But the situation has become such that he not only returned the award and the prize money, but also declared he would not receive any award from the government ever.”
On the other hand, Vidmahe, a professor of Telugu at the Kakatiya University in Warangal, said it was her “responsibility” to return the award in the “prevailing situation”. She had received the award in 2013 for the collection of her essays “Sahityaakashmlo Sagam”.
Meanwhile, PEN International has expressed solidarity with the writers in India and urged the government to provide them security. PEN International is a leading international body of writers and artists across the world. During its 81st Congress recently organised in Canada and attended by writers from 150 countries, the organisation passed a resolution supporting the writers.
Its president John Ralston Saul has written to President Pranab Mukherjee, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Sahitya Akademi, urging them to take “immediate steps” to protect the rights of writers.
Expressing “grave concern over the crisis following the murder of noted scholar and intellectual, M M Kalburgi”, Saul has written that the writers “have asked me, as President of PEN International, to share with you our strongly-held view that the Indian government take immediate steps to protect the rights of everyone, including writers and artists, in the finest traditions of Indian society and culture.
”Referring to recent statements by BJP leaders on writers, he wrote: “The government must reassure the community of writers and artists that its ministers are tolerant of diverse views. Also, it must ensure that the investigations into the murders of M M Kalburgi, Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare are conducted fairly and expediently.”
He further wrote that the international community of writers “stands in solidarity with the more than fifty novelists, scholars, poets, and public intellectuals who have returned their awards to the Akademi and admires their courage”.
PEN International also issued a statement that said, “India is the world’s largest democracy. Yet there is a climate of growing intolerance in India where those who challenge orthodoxy or fundamentalism have become increasingly vulnerable.”
“Two government ministers have questioned the motives of the writers returning the awards. It takes courage in the current climate in India to express public dissent in a public manner,” the statement has added.
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