After the country’s top literary body, Sahitya Akademi, belatedly broke its silence and condemned the killing of Kannada author M.M. Kalburgi following an emergency meeting here on Friday, author Vikram Seth is a relieved man, “happy, joyous, satisfied”.
“It will help assuage the feeling of hurt of the authors. It is a noble statement. It is most welcome in the given circumstances and in many ways, goes beyond my expectations. It is a victory for free speech,” Mr. Seth said.
Mr. Seth, who had spoken out in defence of the agitating authors, more than 40 of whom had returned the akademi awards for not condemning the murder of rationalists in Karnataka and Maharashtra and the lynching in Dadri, saw the statement as the Akademi’s attempt to assert its independence and as a result of the pressure exerted by writers who were divided by language but united by their common desire for free speech and expression in a civil society without fear of murder.
“I am very happy after reading the Akademi’s statement today. The Akademi, the most prominent representative body of writers, has shown it cares for them. The writers have proved that there cannot be a compromise on freedom of speech and freedom to write. Particularly, credit should go to those five-six language writers who prevailed upon the Akademi to call an emergency meeting. Credit should go to the Akademi’s board too,” said Mr. Seth, who too, at one time, was contemplating giving up his award and keenly waiting for the meeting to see if the Akademi struck the right chord.
When informed that the Akademi had requested the writers to take back their awards, Mr. Seth refused to suggest a course of action for authors. “To each his own,” Mr. Seth said, leaving it to the author concerned to take the call. “The Akademi should find a mechanism wherein awards can be given back.
“Writers work in isolation. An award from their peers means so much to them. To give up an award requires moral courage and strong belief.”
He, however, refused to see the Akademi’s statement as a blanket sign of amity and good sense prevailing all around. “As far as the government is concerned, we will have to wait and watch. It is not an open and shut case,” said Mr. Seth.