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 annoucement during a television debate on Sunday. 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 current situation. She had received the award in 2013 for the collection of her essays “Sahityaakashmlo Sagam”.
Rana was given the prestigious award last year for his book Shahdaba, which means a collection of beehives and includes ghazals and nazms. While earlier, Rana had maintained that returning awards was not the solution, later he decided to return the same with a vow that he would not take any “government award” in future as well.
Participating in a televised debate with other writers and politicians, Rana said he had decided to return the award because he was dismayed over the recent developments in the country. “I am returning the Sahitya Akademi award. I won’t accept any award from the government in the future… I come from Rae Bareli, politics runs through the street drains in my city, but I never cared for it,” the 62-year-old poet said.
“Writers and litterateurs have been associated with one party or the other. Some are said to be linked with Congress while others with BJP. I am a Muslim and some may label me as a Pakistani. Many areas in this country are not linked with electricity but Muslims here are linked to Dawood Ibrahim,” he added.
Rana has voiced concerns against the “growing religious intolerance in India.”
When contacted, Pabrez Rana, son of Munawwar Rana, said: “We are with him in his decision. He had not returned the award earlier because everyone was doing it… it is true that he had said that returning award was not the solution as there were other ways as well. But the situation has become such that he decided not only return the award and prize money but also has announced that he will not to take accept any government award in the future.”
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 Mukherji, 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 takes immediate steps to protect the rights of everyone, including writers and artists, in the finest traditions of Indian society and culture.”
(With PTI inputs)