Telugu writer M. Bhoopal Reddy’s decision to return his Sahitya Akademi award comes amid a storm raging on social network sites over the delayed response of Telugu literary figures to the national controversy kicked off by Ms Nayantara Sehgal.
Last week, Sahitya Akademi award winner Peddibhotla Subbaramaiah, speaking on behalf of 10 fellow writers, expressed his protest against the “culture of intolerance creeping ever wider in the country,” signified by the murder of Kannada rationalist writer M.M. Kalburgi and the lynching of a Muslim man in Dadri. The writers expressed their protest but stopped short of returning their awards.
The response has become the subject of vigorous debates on social media, with one section criticising the protest as half-baked for not returning their awards. Mr Bhoopal Reddy was one of the writers who were signatories to the statement released by Mr Peddibhotla but broker ranks with them on Thursday by deciding to return the award. Announcing his decision, the writer said more Telugu litterateurs are likely to follow suit.
Soon after Ms Sehgal triggered the phenomenon of writers returning their awards, Telugu poet Aranya Krishna wrote on his Facebook page that all Telugu Sahitya Akademi Award winners should take a cue from their counterparts in other states and return their awards. The post received an overwhelming response from critics.
One acerbic post said, “Members of the Opportunist Writers’ Association, Indifferent Writers’ Association and Timid Litterateurs Society must listen to the voice of the people as this is the time to act and redeem your selves.”
Another post said, “Telugu award winners are all meek because all firebrand writers have taken the revolutionary path and do not accept awards given by the Government in the first place.”
Mr Bhoopal Reddy told The Hindu on Thursday, “From the beginning I was for the returning of the award.”
Mr Bhoopal Reddy’s decision to take the plunge on Thursday is likely to pile more pressure on other major Telugu writers to return their awards. Virasam founder and leftist writer Varavara Rao has publicly asked why writers of the likes of Mr Siva Reddy have not given up their awards and quit the Akademi. Editor A B K Prasad came down hard on Telugu award winners for not acting earlier. Mr Prasad trained his guns on the doyen of the Telugu language C Narayana Reddy. “He has got everything. What more does he want?” But the social media debate has its share of people who question even the rejection of awards. “What do they mean by returning their awards after so many years? After enjoying all the benefits like getting (their works) translated into other languages, the publicity, the money, etc? Awardees should not behave like sheep. There has to be a purpose in every action of literary luminaries,” one post said.