The unrest over ‘rising intolerance’ returned to haunt the Sahitya Akademi with several recipients of its Yuva Puraskar on Thursday claiming that their acceptance of the award should not be seen as lack of concern about the issue.
The Yuva Puraskar is given to a writer under 35 years of age and carries a cash award of Rs 50,000. As young writers of 23 languages received their awards in New Delhi on Thursday, several winners voiced similar anxieties as expressed by senior writers over the past two months. Nearly 35 writers recently returned their awards protesting against the silence of the premier institution over rising intolerance and attacks on writers.
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Kannada writer Mounesh Badiger said that he was in two minds about accepting the award. “At a time when we are seeing a rise in religious conflicts in the country, communal violence, when a lot of writers — agitated by the brutal murder of intellectuals — are involved in a campaign to return their awards and at a time when the performance of the Sahitya Akademi itself is viewed as questionable, I was in a big dilemma about accepting this award,” said Badiger.
“Receiving this award does not mean that I do not condemn the religious intolerance spreading across the country…Artists like me who rely on art for our livelihood most certainly do not have the financial strength to refuse an award of this huge an amount,” he added.
Marathi writer Veera Rathod spoke in sync with Badiger. “I am in a dilemma. On one hand, I am happy to receive this award, but on the other hand, the Indian society, particularly the world of writers, artists and thinkers is in a state of turbulence. I am probably not competent enough to say what is right or wrong, but I feel everything is not okay in the country. Otherwise, there wouldn’t have been so much noise,” he said.
English writer Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar backed senior writers returning their awards and said: “Returning of awards is a kind of protest…Writers are protesting against the position of power and I agree with this kind of protest.”
Telugu winner Pasunoori Ravinder said: “I condemn the killing of M M Kalburgi, who was a Sahitya Akademi award winner in Kannada.”