Writers must stand up to threats to freedom of expression: MT

Jnanpith laureate voices concern over gradual disappearance of languages

Published - February 02, 2023 10:05 pm IST - Thiruvananthapuram

Writers should not fall silent and abandon creative pursuits even in the face of serious assaults on freedom of expression from various quarters, including power centres, Jnanpith laureate M.T. Vasudevan Nair has said.

The writer was delivering the keynote address at the four-day Mathrubhumi International Festival of Letters (MBIFL 2023) at Kanakakkunnu here on Thursday.

“We are living in times when freedom of expression in India is confronted with challenges arising from intolerance and violence. There are concerted efforts to suppress independent voices. What now appear as the initial signals could lead to serious consequences later if we choose to remain silent,” MT, as he is popularly known, was quoted saying in a statement.

The pressure exerted on writers by forces of intolerance could often be intense and agonising, he said. “Pushed to the wall, Tamil writer Perumal Murugan once went to the extent of saying that he was giving up writing. But I will say writers should stand up instead of giving into forces of suppression and remaining silent,” said MT, who has also made an indelible impression as a film director, screenplay writer, and cultural observer.

Religious intolerance

On the growing religious intolerance, he said all religions had their basic philosophies that envisioned spiritual and cultural development of human beings, and intolerance and violence had no place in it. True followers of different faiths should come out and resist such tendencies, he said.

He also voiced concern over the gradual disappearance of languages. Even in South India, five languages were on the brink of disappearing. “This is an issue that calls for serious introspection,” he said.

The issue appeared all the more serious as far as Malayalam was concerned. “It would be hard to come across a Tamil child who could not recall a few lines of poet Subramania Bharati, or a student in Bengal who could not recite poems of Rabindranath Tagore. But that may not be the case in Kerala where you would not come across many children who could recite lines of Asan, Vallathol, and Ulloor, the celebrated poetic trio of Malayalam.”

MT, who has had a long association with Mathrubhumi, including as its periodicals editor, said literature festivals like the MBIFL brought together writers from various parts of the world and were vital to understanding and enhancing mutual connect.

Mathrubhumi managing director and festival chairman M.V. Shreyamskumar and Mathrubhumi chairman and managing editor P.V. Chandran, who is also the chief patron of the festival, were present. Festival curator M.P. Surendran presented a memento to M.T. Vasudevan Nair.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.