Mumbai

Urdu writer joins protest, to return prize

After writer Nayantara Sahgal and poet Ashok Vajpeyi, Urdu novelist Rahman Abbas announced that he would be returning the Maharashtra State Urdu Sahitya Academy Award, which he won in 2011 for his third novel Khuda Ke Saaye Mein Aankh Micholi (Hide-and Seek in the Shadow of God).

Mr. Abbas’ action is in protest against the ‘growing intolerance of Hindu right-wing groups against minorities.’

Speaking to The Hindu, he said, “Ever since the Dadri lynching, the Urdu writing community has been quite unhappy. I am going to the Academy office on Saturday to return the award and already there are 2-3 Urdu writers who want to join the protest. It is high time we stood up to the injustice surround-ing us…”

Mr. Abbas is no stranger to controversy. His first Urdu novel, Nakhlistan ki Talash, published in 2004 had created a stir in literary circles and he was forced to resign from his post as a lecturer in a Mumbai college. The novel is the story of a young educated Muslim, who finds himself alienated in the post-1992 Mumbai riots situation, which leads him to join a terrorist organisation.

An FIR was lodged against Mr. Abbas for spreading ‘obscenity’ through this novel and he was arrested on July 28, 2005 and charged under Section 292 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 for the printing of ‘grossly indecent or scurrilous text’ which carries a jail term of up to two years. The case is still pending.

“Writers feel a sense of desperation and exasperation in the face of threat to freedom of speech and the aesthetics of communication. This [return of award] is a symbolic gesture as this is the only way the literary community can react and express solidarity for one another,” says Sukrita Paul Kumar, poet, author and critic.

Mr. Abbas took to his Facebook account on Wednesday to announce his move to return the award, and in an open letter to fellow writers, said: “The social and political scenario of our beloved country is worsening with every passing day. Right-wing forces have polarised [the] nation in the name of religion, caste and ethnicity for political gains. Dissent is systematically crushed and rational thinkers and writers are threatened and brutally killed in broad daylight. The central and state governments don’t show any eagerness to arrest and punish murderers of (rationalists) Narendra Dabholkar, Comrade Govind Pansare and Prof MM Kalburgi. The state is seemingly hesitant and hiding behind various excuses from banning organisations, which had reportedly played clandestine roles in heinous crimes.”

Mr. Abbas urged other Urdu writers to join him in his protest. “It is high time, as Ashok Vajpeyi said. We cannot remain voiceless. Hence, I request senior Urdu writers, poets and critics including Nida Fazli, Salam Bin Razzak, Abdus Samad, Javed Akhtar, Gulzar, Munawwar Rana, to register [their] protest against the murder and killing of creative writers by returning Sahitya Academy awards. This might be a small step but in such volatile times, it is inescapable. It is our duty to raise our voice against fascism, right-wing intolerant forces and lawlessness… promoted as a strategy to divide the country on the lines of religion, sentiments of segments and dogmatic cultural doctrines.”

Asked for his reaction, Delhi-based poet, Nomaan Shauq said: “This is a great and pertinent gesture and I feel all the great Urdu writers and those who have won awards and accolades must follow suit. Someone should ask this question, as to why the more popular writers who go on public forums and discuss freedom of expression remain silent when the time comes to act. It is a question of the composite culture of India.”

Alluding to recent events, Mr. Abbas’ open letter also said: “I demand that the state punish forces which had killed Narendra Dabholkar and Comrade Pansare. I demand the Central government to book those responsible for instigating the mob which killed Mr. Akhlaq in Dadri. I urge senior Urdu writers to take a stand as this is high time and our secular democracy is under attack.”


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Printable version | Dec 1, 2021 5:44:13 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/urdu-writer-joins-protest-to-return-prize/article7740137.ece

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