Author Nayantara Sahgal has been praised by a United Nations(UN) monitor for cultural rights for returning her Sahitya Akademi award two years ago following the killing of Mohammed Ikhlaq by a mob in UP's Dadri in 2015.
According to a report by IANS, Karima Bennoune, the special rapporteur for cultural rights, told a General Assembly committee dealing with social, humanitarian and cultural affairs: "Women artists often play a significant role in calling out fundamentalism and extremism. For example, in response to what they perceived as ‘rising intolerance and growing assault on free speech’, coupled with violence against intellectuals, approximately 40 leading Indian writers, including women writers, returned their literary awards in protest."
Bennoune added,"This effort came to prominence after well-known writer Nayantara Sahgal returned a prize” with the explanation that “India’s culture of diversity and debate is now under vicious assault."
Bennoune is a professor of international law at the University of California-Davis School of Law.
Sahgal, the 88-year-old niece of Jawaharlal Nehru, had announced her decision to return her Sahitya Akademi award in the year 2015.
In an open letter titled "Unmaking of India" she had referred to the Dadri lynching of a Muslim man by a mob over suspicion of eating beef, and also the killings of Kannada writer M M Kalburgi and rationalists Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare. Sehgal had also questioned the silence of PM Narendra Modi on these incidents.
There were 40 writers who had returned their Sahitya Akademi awards, the Union government had confirmed.