What sin has the Sahitya Academy Awards committed?

What sin has the Sahitya Academy Awards committed?

Is there no other way to protest the growing intolerance in the country?

Is there no other way to protest the growing intolerance in the country? However, it is the personal decision to return an award but an unwise rage is not the solution of the problem, I feel. The Sahitya Akademi Award has been recommended by the jury members and the decision of members of the Jury is final in this regard and government is not a part of the jury in any way. So, is there any point of returning these awards to the government?

So far, nearly 26 writers have already returned their Sahitya Akademi awards to the government in protest against the killing of Kannada writer Prof. Malleshappa Madivalappa Kalburgi as well as to express disapproval the growing intolerance in the country and our Prime Minister’s silence in this connection. Noted Assamese writers Nirupama Borgohain and Homen Borgohain have also publicised to return their Sahitya Akademi awards. How strange it is that only eight writers had written to the Chairperson/President of Sahitya Akademi about giving back their awards and others have just announced publicly only through the media. In doing so, they have earned media publicity and nothing else, I believe.

Further, only three writers have returned the award amount Rs. one lakh and they are: English writer Nayantara Sahgal, the niece of Jawaharlal Nehru, Hindi Poet Ashok Vajpeyi and eminent Hindi writer Uday Prakash along with their shawl, plaque etc. Interestingly, many have returned Sahitya Akademi awards but yet to return the award amount.

The Sahitya Akademi has brought out over 6000 books so far and in every 19 hours, the Akademi publishes one book. 1004 writers including Poets, Translators have achieved the award till 2014. The awards were instituted in the year 1954. A Sahitya Akademi Award winner’s book (for which he/she won the award) is being translated into 24 Indian languages and the recipients of the Akademi award attain other government privileges.

From my point of view, the writers must not return their awards to the government since they know that Sahitya Akademi is quite an autonomous body. They should protest against the government following the present situation in many other ways and not giving back the awards. In an interview, the president of the Sahitya Akademi said, “The award is given to the writers for the ‘gunvakti’ (quality/beauty) of their books.

As we all know, communal incidents continually appear in a country like India and this is not the first time. Indian writer Sushmita Banerjee (49) was shot dead in Afghanistan by militants in 2013. The renowned Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen has repeatedly been harassed and physically assaulted for her novel “Lajja” (Shame) and her other works. On the other, the British Indian novelist and essayist Salman Rushdie had been pulled out of the Jaipur Literary Festival 2012 which was one of the Asia’s biggest festivals and even his video conference was called off at the festival. Furthermore, Rushdie also failed to visit one of the Asia’s biggest book fairs since the West Bengal government created an obnoxious pressure to the book fair organizers not to have Rushdie over as the writer of The Satanic Verses would affront the minorities.

Also, in the year 1997, over 4 lakh Kashmiri Pandits left Kashmir. In 1998, many Kashmiri Pandits were killed in incident such as the Wandhama massacre and the 2000 Amarnath pilgrimage massacre. In 2002, over 1044 people were killed in Gujarat violence. In the year 2012, nearly 80 people killed in Assam violence. All I remember is the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. So, the history of modern India has many incidents of communal violence. But interestingly no writer wanted to return his/her award following a number of major incidents that time. Where were the so called writers at that point?

Summing up the entire scenario, returning the award is a national disgrace and also hitting the nation. I would like to place a question before our well-respected writers who have returned their awards and those who have already announced to return is: what sin an award has done?

By Mithun Dey
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