Kannada poet Professor Chandrashekhar Patil and Hindi writer Uday Prakash have decided to return their literary awards to protest against the killing of well-known Kannada writer Professor M M Kalburgi, who was gunned down by unidentified persons in Dharwad last month.
Patil, who describes himself as a former “classmate, colleague and comrade” of Kalburgi, has returned the Pampa Prashasti or Pampa Award — the highest literary award in Karnataka. He has also returned the cheque of Rs 3 lakh, plaque and shawl to the state government.
Stating that he was “saddened” by the murder of his friend, he said no progress had been made in the case so far. “We have watched many lives being snuffed out silently, Marathi voices like Govind Pansare, Narendra Dabholkar and another death in Gulbarga of another bold Kannada writer, Linganna Satyampet. The investigations in each of these cases don’t seem to be going anywhere,” he said.
Patil said Kalburgi’s work came under fire “not just from fellow Lingayats but also from the RSS, Bajrang Dal and Sri Ram Sene.” “We anticipated trouble, but he paid the ultimate price, with his life, for his bold and fearless voice,” he said.
Patil said he had conveyed his decision to the state government, and asked the Chief Minister to call “a special session” to pass the anti-superstition bill”. He said a movement would soon be launched to press this demand and to fight “fundamentalist forces and media terrorism.”
Meanwhile, Prakash, who received the Sahitya Akademi Award for 2010-11, has also decided to return his award. In a letter to the Sahitya Akademi on Wednesday, Prakash cited “anguish, despair and angst” at the growing insecurity among writers.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Prakash said: “Someone like Kalburgi, who the Akademi has termed as ‘outstanding’ gets shot in cold blood. Yet, the Akademi does not… condole, issue a statement or even a message of regret to the family. In case of railway accidents for instance, even callous governments express sorrow and make a perfunctory visit. But there has been no word, nothing, just silence.”
Prakash said he was “worried, upset and even scared at what is happening and how so many voices are being silenced.” He said: “When we engage with these sections online, I see their comments and find them full of violence, contempt and hate. It worries me where all this hate is coming from. I live in Shahdol in Madhya Pradesh and travel often between there and Delhi. I don’t meet these people, but they are clearly emboldened, lurking somewhere, and go out and kill people.”
On the ongoing World Hindi Sammelan in his home state, Prakash said he found it odd that there was “no word of solidarity for those killed” but “other things are being discussed, like how the PM learnt how to make tea and serve it.”
He said: “Hindi is as much Indian as English, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada or Marathi. I don’t see any such big patronage to any other language. So if Hindi is so big now, why don’t they at least represent or speak for those being silenced in other languages like Kalburgi, Marathi rationalists Govind Pansare and Narendra Dabholkar…”
Prakash has decided to return the cheque of Rs 1 lakh, momento and shawl. However, as the Sahitya Akademi secretary, K Srinivas Rao, is reported to be out of town, Prakash has been asked to keep these till the Akademi holds a meeting on the issue.