The Sahitya Akademi on Friday said it was “deeply pained” over the “dastardly” murder of noted writer M.M. Kalburgi and other intellectuals and urged the writers to take back the awards they returned to denounce the Akademi’s silence and growing intolerance.
“The Akademi strongly supports the writers’ right to freedom of expression in all languages of India and condemns any atrocities against any writer in the country in the strongest of words,” Akademi president Vishwanath Prasad Tiwari said in a statement.
The Akademi, after holding a special meeting of its executive board for over three hours here, also condemned the violence against fellow citizens from different walks of life.
The Akademi, an autonomous body founded in 1954, urged the scores of authors who have returned their awards or have dissociated themselves from the Akademi to reconsider their decision.
The strongly-worded statement followed stringent criticism of the Akademi over the past few weeks, and a protest march on Friday by some 100 litterateurs to its office.
Writer Virendra Yadav told IANS why the Akademi’s appeal was too little, too late.
“Our protest was about the Akademi’s role in protecting the rights of writers which it has failed to do. Opposing our actions, there was another group who were pro-Akademi and calle our protest anti-government and anti-Narendra Modi,” Yadav said.
Several well-known writers have returned their Akademi awards and prize money to protest against what they felt was the Akademi’s silence after the murder of Kannada writer M.M. Kalburgi in August.
Many writers were also troubled by growing intolerance in the country, including the lynching of a Muslim man in Uttar Pradesh over rumours that he ate beef.
The Akademi pointed out in its statement that it held a condolence meeting after Kalburgi’s murder by gunmen and had urged the Karnataka chief minister to provide protection to his family.
Tiwari said the Akademi was guided solely by writers and all its decisions including those on the awards were made only by the writers.
“The Akademi has also asked governments at the centre and the states to take immediate action against the culprits and to ensure the security of writers now and in the future,” he said.
It asked various communities to put aside the differences of caste, religion and ideology.
Before Kalburgi was killed, gunmen shot dead rationalist and communist Govind Pansare in Kolhapur in Maharashtra in February.
Bengali poet Mandakranta Sen and Kerala writer Sara Joseph said they won’t take back their awards.
“There is no question of taking it back because the situation in the country has not changed. We are protesting against the intolerance, communalism and attacks on writes,” Sen said in Kolkata.
Poet and writer Vimal Kumar said: “The (statement) is not enough to solve what the writers’ community has been pointing at — rising intolerance. Returning the awards was only a symbolic dissent.”
In Thiruvananthapuram, Joseph said: “The (Akademi) resolution is just a face-saving measure while the larger issue still stays. Hence my decision stands.”