Author Shashi Deshpande compared the present environment in the country to "McCarthy era", where writers are being ridiculed, attributed political motives and the creative community finds itself deeply polarised.
"Untill now we were all writers. But today, to my bewilderment, I find that we are either left or right wing. Many have been asking me whether we are living in a state of Emergency. No, as our Constitutional rights are intact. But it is far worse. We today don't know whom we are fighting against," she said, delivering the key note address at the two-day Bangalore Literature Festival that began on Saturday.
"We are now told that we should not wash dirty linen in public. But what do we do with it? Keep it home till it stinks?" she questioned. She came down heavily on the government "for running down the protesting writers, ridiculing them and attributing political motives." It is a sad day when the government takes the lead in vilifying its writers and artists, she said.
"I resigned from my posts at the Sahitya Akademi following M M Klbuirgi's murder in my hometown Dharwad, as i found the Akademi not even condemning the murder of one of our very own being gunned down for his views... The writers who returned awards or carried out signature campaigns were all protesting against the slow build up of an environment where attempts are on to move the country towards mono-religious hegemony and homogeneity,"' she said.
Ms. Deshpande also made a dig at those who ridiculed writers returning awards. "People have called us sheep. But I see this as one spark lighting the other. If this is herd mentality or being a sheep, then all those who joined the French Revolution and Indian Freedom Movement were acting with a herd mentality," she said. It may be recalled that Vikram Sampath, the organiser of the festival who later stepped down, had also called award wapsi as reflecting "herd mentality."
"Those blackening the face of writers, those who are pulling women out of pubs all quote culture. At the end of Bhagavad Gita, Krishna asks Arjuna to do as he desires. I think we need to make this also part of our culture," she said.