22 writers and poets of English and regional languages presented Sahitya Akademi Awards for 2011

Hindi critic Professor Namwar Singh on Tuesday cautioned writers and poets against succumbing to pressure threatening their freedom of speech and expression.

Addressing the Sahitya Akademi awards function at the Kamani Auditorium here, Prof. Singh referred to the unsavoury incident at the recently concluded “Jaipur Literature Festival” involving author Salman Rushdie.

“It was an unfortunate incident. The book [The Satanic Verses] was banned by the Indian government but subsequently the writer had visited the country on quite a few occasions. He was prevented from turning up at the festival only because of the elections.”

“Sahitya Akademi is the only autonomous institution, but its independence was threatened once… Words of writers carry a lot of weight. They can even challenge the establishment.”

Sri Lankan writer Sumathy Sivamohan, a Sahitya Akademi Premchand fellow, said with authority came responsibility and vulnerability. She had words of praise for “heroic mothers” living in Sri Lanka who taught their children not to join the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam at a time when it was forcibly recruiting armed personnel.

Twenty-two writers and poets of English and regional languages were honoured with the Sahitya Akademi Awards for 2011 on the occasion.

The “Festival of Letters” organised by the Sahitya Akademi saw poets Premananda Machahary (Bodo), Naseem Shafaie (Kashmiri), Melvyn Rodrigues (Konkani), Harekrishna Satapathy (Sanskrit), Aditya Kumar Mandi (Santali), Uday Chandra Jha ‘Vinod' (Maithili) and Khaleel Mamoon (Urdu) being conferred the award — a casket containing an engraved copper-plaque, a shawl and a cheque of Rs. 1 lakh.

Veteran poet Manindra Gupta (Bengali) could not come personally to collect the award for his collection of poetry Bane Aaj Concherto, that has created an original style by employing an underlying tone of subtle irony.

Late poet Kabin Phukan (Assamese) was awarded posthumously for his collection of poetry Ei Anuragi Ei Udas, that reflects on the history and folklore of Assam.

Novelists Kashinath Singh (Hindi), Gopalakrishna Pai (Kannada), Kshetri Bira (Manipuri), Kalpana Kumari Devi (Odia), Baldev Singh ‘Sadaknama' (Punjabi), Atul Kanakk (Rajasthani) and Su. Venkatesan (Tamil) also received the awards.

Lalit Magotra (Dogri), Manik Sitaram Godghate ‘Grace' (Marathi) and Samala Sadasiva (Telugu) got the award for their books of essays.

As Ramachandra Guha was abroad, his representative accepted the award for his book of narrative history India after Gandhi: The History of the World's Largest Democracy. It has been acknowledged as a significant work in the field of Indian narrative history.

Mohan Parmar (Gujarati) was awarded for his book of short stories, M.K. Sanoo (Malayalam) for his biography on Vaikom Muhammad Basheer, one of Kerala's greatest literary icons. Mohan Gehani (Sindhi) won the award for his book of plays.

Among those who spoke were Akademi president Sunil Gangopadhyay, secretary A. Krishna Murthy and vice-president Vishwanath Prasad Tiwari.

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