Rushdie Backs Authors, Seven More Return Sahitya Akademi Awards

New Delhi
Rushdie Backs Authors, Seven More Return Sahitya Akademi Awards
Rushdie Backs Authors, Seven More Return Sahitya Akademi Awards

Booker Prize winning author Salman Rushdie today joined the growing chorus of protests by leading writers against spread of "communal poison" and "rising intolerance" in the country even as seven more authors decided to return their Sahitya Akademi awards.

"I support Nayantara Sahgal and the many other writers protesting to the Sahitya Akademi. Alarming times for free expression in India," he tweeted.

88-year-old Sahgal, niece of Jawaharlal Nehru, was among the first to lodge her protest against the Akademi's silence over repeated attacks on writers and rationalists who were raising their voice of dissent.

Kashmiri writer Ghulam Nabi Khayal, Urdu novelist Rahman Abbas and Kannada writer- translator Srinath D N said they were handing back their Sahitya awards.

Khayal and Srinath were joined by Hindi writers Mangalesh Dabral and Rajesh Joshi who backed the spiralling protest by litterateurs against "communal" atmosphere following rationalist M M Kalburgi's killing.

Punjabi author Waryam Sandhu and Kannada translator G N Ranganatha Rao said they have intimated to the Akademi their decision to give back their awards.

With this, at least 16 authors have announced their decision to return their awards with some warning that minorities in the country today feel "unsafe and threatened".

"The communal poison is spreading in the country and the threat of dividing people looms large," the writers warned.

Under fire from several quarters, the Akademi has called for a meeting of the Executive Board on October 23.

Sahitya Akademi President Vishwanath Prasad Tiwari had said that the institution was committed to the core secular values enshrined in the Constitution of India.

Khayal said, "I have decided to return the award. The minorities in the country are feeling unsafe and threatened. They feel their future is bleak."

Urdu writer Rahman Abbas said, "After the Dadri lynching, the Urdu writing community has been quite unhappy. Therefore, I decided to return the award. There are some other Urdu writers who also want to join the protest. It is high time we stood up to the injustice surrounding us."

Expressing his anguish over recent developments, Kannada translator Srinath said,"In the place of the pen, there are now bullets being fired. Author Kalburgi was murdered and both the Centre and the state should quickly act against the offenders so that such an incident is not repeated in the future."

In their joint statement protesting the "silence" of the Akademi over the Kalburgi murder, Dabral and Joshi said, "For the past one year or so basic values of democracy, freedom of expression, freedom to live our lives according to our wishes are under attack by the forces of Hindutva, which is not acceptable.

"The Sahitya Akademi remains silent about the Kalburgi murder so many dangers our democracy is facing, the very fabric of democracy is under threat."

They said the Akademi should have opposed the killing of Kalburgi openly. "It was the duty of the Akademi to condemn the atmosphere in the country," he said.

When contacted Akademi officials said they were yet to receive intimations of the writers returning the awards.

"Apart from writers Uday Prakash, G N Devy, Aman Sethi, Waryam Sandhu and translator G N Ranganatha Rao, we have not got any intimations about the writers returning their awards," an official said.

Joshi said they had sent they have written to the Akademi President and will soon be returning their prize money.

"The way country's atmosphere is being communalised is not good for the tradition of tolerance for which the nation is known," he said.

The poet and playwright said it was unprecedented to have so many writers return their awards.

Six authors, including Gujarat-based writer Ganesh Devy, announced they were returning their awards, joining ranks with authors Nayantara Sahgal, Ashok Vajpyei and Uday Prakash who had earlier given up the honour to protest against the Kalburgi killing and Dadri lynching incident where a man was killed by a mob over rumour of beef eating.

A 50-year-old man was on September 28 lynched by a mob in Dadri's Bishada village near Delhi over rumours of eating beef, triggering a nationwide outrage.

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