Bengal poet returns Sahitya Akademi award

Eminent poet of Bengal, Mandakranta Sen, who received Sahitya Akademi in 2004, returned her award on Tuesday night. She told  The Hindu that this was to protest against “growing communalism and the attacks on rationalists.” Ms. Sen received Young Writers Special Award at the age of 30 for her body of work on Bengali poetry.

“Even though I was awarded when a different government was in power, by returning the award I am registering my protest,” she said.

 Interestingly, earlier in the day, eminent poet Sankha Ghosh told  The Hindu that he felt writers and the poets who had opted to return their awards could have shown their protest in a different way as Sahitya Akademi is “not a government body.”

Ms. Sen, however, did not agree with the view. “I and my husband have given it a thought. The Akademi comes under the Ministry of Culture and the influence of the government on the Akademi cannot be denied and thus I have decided to return the award,” she said.

 While maintaining that the recent spate of attacks on the writers and the rationalists are “condemnable,” many of Bengal’s Sahitya Akademi winners said that they have no plans to return the award. However, noted poet and essayist Sankha Ghosh, a Sahitya Akademi fellow and a recipient of the award in 1977, has said that he may write an open letter to the President. Mr. Ghosh said that “the spread of communal thoughts are alarming” and should be condemned. However, he ruled out returning the award.

“I strongly condemn the attack on the novelists, poets, humanists and rationalists,” said Mr Ghosh. “There should to be strong protest against such atrocities…the spread of communal thoughts across the country is alarming.” He feels that the impact of growing communalism on the people and the society would be “catastrophic” and that the people need to come together to protest. Another eminent writer, Samaresh Majumdar, who got the Award in 1984, also said that the Sahitya Academy was a completely autonomous institution and the government had no role to play in the selection process of Award recipients.

Another Akademi Award winner Bani Basu said that she was not planning to return her award. “I would rather prefer to protest in some other way,” the writer said.

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Printable version | Jan 16, 2022 8:14:39 PM |

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