Nehru's Niece Nayantara Sehgal Returns Sahitya Akademi Award

Nehru's Niece Nayantara Sehgal Returns Sahitya Akademi Award
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Nehru's Niece Nayantara Sehgal Returns Sahitya Akademi Award
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+0553

Eminent author and niece of Jawaharlal Nehru, Nayantara Sehgal today returned the Sahitya Akademi award in protest against increasing intolerance towards right to dissent in the country and Prime Minister Narendra Modi's "silence" on the "reign of terror".

Sehgal, who received a Sahitya Akademi award in 1986 for her English novel 'Rich Like Us (1985)', said, "The ruling ideology today is a fascist ideology and that is what is worrying me now. We did not have a fascist government until now... I am doing whatever I believe in."

Citing various incidents of killings of writers and rationalists including M M Kalburgi and Govind Pansare, she alleged, "Rationalists who question superstition, anyone who questions any aspect of the ugly and dangerous distortion of Hinduism known as Hindutva – whether in the intellectual or artistic sphere, or whether in terms of food habits and lifestyle – are being marginalised, persecuted, or murdered."

Most recently, a village blacksmith, Mohammed Akhlaq, was dragged out of his home in Bishada village outside Delhi, and brutally lynched, on the supposed suspicion that beef was cooked in his home, the 88-year-old author said in a statement.

"In all these cases, justice drags its feet. The Prime Minister remains silent about this reign of terror. We must assume he dare not alienate evil-doers who support his ideology. It is a matter of sorrow that the Sahitya Akademi remains silent....

"In memory of the Indians who have been murdered, in support of all Indians who uphold the right to dissent, and of all dissenters who now live in fear and uncertainty, I am returning my Sahitya Akademi Award," said Sehgal, who in the past also strongly criticised imposition of the Emergency in 1975 by her cousin late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

She told PTI that "Modi is a politician who knows how to speak. He has given long speeches. On twitter and other social media he is vocal. He should be responsible for (what is happening) in the country."

Referring to recent speech by Vice-President Hamid Ansari reminding people about Constitution promises of 'liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship', she said, "He found it necessary to do so because India's culture of diversity and debate is now under vicious assault."

The author further added that under Modi's government, "India is going backwards. It is rejecting our great idea of cultural diversity and debate and it is narrowing down to an invention called Hindutva."

The writer in her open letter, "The Unmaking of India", said it was "a matter of sorrow" that the Sahitya Akademi was silent on these issues.

"In protest against Kalburgi's murder, a Hindi writer, Uday Prakash, has returned his Sahitya Akademi Award. Six Kannada writers have returned their awards to the Kannada Sahitya Parishat," she said.

Stating that the right to dissent was an integral part of the constitutional guarantee, she said, "Many people have been marginalised and a lot of Indians are living in fear of what might happen to them... The situation in the country is getting more serious and the Prime Minister should make a statement."

Asked whether she wanted other authors to follow suit, Sahgal said, "I don't know what the others are going to do. I am doing whatever I believe in."

Full text of her statement as was published on the website indianculturalforum.in:

The Unmaking of India

In a recent lecture, India’s Vice-President, Dr. Hamid Ansari, found it necessary to remind us that India’s Constitution promises all Indians “liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship.”The right to dissent is an integral part of this Constitutional guarantee. He found it necessary to do so because India’s culture of diversity and debate is now under vicious assault. Rationalists who question superstition, anyone who questions any aspect of the ugly and dangerous distortion of Hinduism known as Hindutva – whether in the intellectual or artistic sphere, or whether in terms of food habits and lifestyle – are being marginalized, persecuted, or murdered. A distinguished Kannada writer and Sahitya Akademi Award winner, M.M. Kalburgi, and two Maharashtrians, Narendra Dhabolkar and Govind Pansare, both anti-superstition activists, have all been killed by gun-toting motor-cyclists. Other dissenters have been warned they are next in line. Most recently, a village blacksmith, Mohammed Akhtaq, was dragged out of his home in Bisara village outside Delhi, and brutally lynched, on the supposed suspicion that beef was cooked in his home.

In all these cases, justice drags its feet. The Prime Minister remains silent about this reign of terror. We must assume he dare not alienate evil-doers who support his ideology. It is a matter of sorrow that the Sahitya Akademi remains silent. The Akademis were set up as guardians of the creative imagination, and promoters of its finest products in art and literature, music and theatre. In protest against Kalburgi’s murder, a Hindi writer, Uday Prakash, has returned his Sahitya Akademi Award. Six Kannada writers have returned their Awards to the Kannada Sahitya Parishat.

In memory of the Indians who have been murdered, in support of all Indians who uphold the right to dissent, and of all dissenters who now live in fear and uncertainty, I am returning my Sahitya Akademi Award.

Signed: Nayantara Sahgal, Dehra Dun, October 6, 2015

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