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Will return award if Sahitya Akademi can’t defend right to dissent: Anita Desai

Desai is known for her novels such as The Village by the Sea and the Fire on the Mountain, for which she received the Sahitya Akademi award. She has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize thrice.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
Updated: October 22, 2015 9:23:42 am

Extending support to writers protesting the Sahitya Akademi’s silence over recent controversies, writer Anita Desai has said that if the premier institution fails to defend its “right to question and dissent”, she will renounce her award and Fellowship of the Akademi. She also slammed the BJP government for spreading “bigotry” and damaging institutions of art and literature.

“I appeal to the Sahitya Akademi to make it clear that it does not represent any government or its policies, but is an independent body that exists to defend free speech and the right to question and dissent, in short, what the constitution of the country promised us,” Desai said.

“If it is not able to declare and pursue such a policy, I will be obliged to renounce my membership of the Akademi and the award it gave me when I was a young writer in more hopeful times,” she added.

“I was born in an India that enshrined democracy, pluralism and the freedom of speech in its constitution. I do not recognise the India of the present time where, under the banner of ‘Hindutva,’ intimidation and bigotry seek to silence writers, scholars and all who believe in secular and rational thought,” she said.

She blamed the government for damaging institutions: “In an atmosphere where there is no security or support for those who voice dissent, criticism or rational thought, there can be no intellectual or artistic work of any worth.”

Desai is known for her novels such as The Village by the Sea and the Fire on the Mountain, for which she received the Sahitya Akademi award. She has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize thrice.

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