She has declined to accept this year's Sahitya Akademi award, citing her opposition to Government policies

NEW DELHI: Booker Prize winner and environment activist Arundhati Roy is unlikely to reconsider her decision to turn down this year's Sahitya Akademi award.

"There is no possibility of Roy reconsidering. Once she has declined the honour, she cannot change her mind despite the Akademi asking her to reverse her decision," sources close to the author said.

Ms. Roy had declined the award, saying she could not accept the honour from an institution linked to a government whose policies she opposed, they told PTI.

Ms. Roy, who won the 1997 Booker for her first novel 'The God of Small Things,' said in a letter to the Akademi that "we are witness to police lathicharge on workers in Gurgaon, the killings of those agitating against a big dam in Manipur and of tribals demonstrating against a steel unit in Orissa."

The Government was also keeping mum on the "unconstitutional capture" of Afghanistan and Iraq by the U.S., she said.

Akademi secretary K. Sachidanandan said on Saturday that "we are trying to persuade her to reconsider her decision. We are telling her that the Akademi is intellectually and culturally purely autonomous although it is funded by the Government."

The Sahitya Akademi would not replace her nomination in any case, he said.

"There have been many occasions when we opposed government policies ourselves. There is absolutely no question of replacing Roy with anybody else. She will remain our awardee." The honour that Ms. Roy has declined was for her book 'The Algebra of Infinite Justice.' - PTI

Text of the letter

In a letter, dated January 13, 2006, to the Chairman of the Sahitya Akademi, Ms. Roy wrote:

"I thank the jury of the Sahitya Akademi for giving me this year's Sahitya Akademi Award for my book 'The Algebra of Infinite Justice.' I am proud that the jury felt that a collection of political essays deserved to be given India's most prestigious literary prize.

"These essays, written between 1998 and 2001, are deeply critical of some of the major policies of the Indian State - on big dams, nuclear weapons, increasing militarisation and on economic neo-liberalism. However, even today this incumbent government shows a continuing commitment to these policies and is clearly prepared to implement them ruthlessly and violently, whatever the cost.

"In the last few months, apart from the growing numbers of farmers' suicides [now running into tens of thousands] and the forcible eviction of people from their lands and livelihoods [in the hundreds of thousands], we have witnessed the police brutalisation of industrial workers in Gurgaon, the killing of a dozen people protesting against a dam in Manipur, and the killing of another dozen people protesting their displacement by a steel plant in Orissa. Even as we call ourselves a democracy, Indian security forces control and administer Kashmir, Manipur and Nagaland - and the numbers of the dead and disappeared continue to mount.

"The 'Algebra of Infinite Justice' is also critical of U. S. foreign policy, particularly in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York and Washington. This present Indian government too has seen it fit to declare itself an ally of the U. S. Government, thereby condoning the American invasion of Afghanistan and its illegal occupation of Iraq, which, under the Nuremburg principles, constitutes the supreme crime of a war of aggression.

"I have a great deal of respect for the Sahitya Akademi, for the members of this year's Jury and for many of the writers who have received these awards in the past. But to register my protest and re-affirm my disagreement - indeed my absolute disgust - with these policies of the Indian Government, I must refuse to accept the 2005 Sahitya Akademi Award."