With poet K. Satchidanandan and feminist writer Sara Joseph, both from Kerala, joining the ranks of Nayantara Sahgal, Ashok Vajpeyi, Shashi Deshpande and others by resigning from official posts and returning literary honours, Sahitya Akademi president Vishwanath Prasad Tiwari finally broke his silence on Saturday.
Mr. Tiwari said a letter, signed by him and bearing the signatures of the vice-president and five members of the executive council, condemning the attack on writers and the assault on the freedom of expression will be issued shortly.
He clarified that the Akademi will not talk about the Dadri lynching as it did not wish to wade into any political matter. “We object to any restrictions on the freedom of expression and condemn the killings of M.M. Kalburgi and rationalist Govind Pansare. As writers we are against any form of orthodoxy and obscurantism,” he said.
Prof. Satchidanandan announced his decision to resign from all committees of the Akademi as it had “failed in its duty to stand with the writers and to uphold freedom of expression…” Ms. Joseph announced in Thrissur that she would return the Akademi award she received in 2003. “The tide of intolerance has risen to such a level that individuals do not have the freedom to eat what they like or to love a person of their choice.”
Prof. Satchidanandan had earlier written to the Akademi to adopt a resolution condemning the killing of Kalburgi. “Holding a ritual condolence meeting in a regional office, as the Akademi seems to have done, is hardly an adequate response to the recent attacks on the freedom of expression followed by a series of murders of independent thinkers in different parts of the country,” he said in his letter.
For his part, Mr. Tiwari said he was yet to read the letter. “The decision to adopt a resolution cannot be that of a single person. The executive council has to take a position,” he said. Writers and members of the general council that The Hindu spoke to also emphasised the need for the Akademi to speak up. Narahalli Balasubramanya from Karnataka said the president should call an emergency meeting. “Though we organised a meeting in Bengaluru, where we condemned the attack on writer Kalburgi, the Akademi at the Centre which is for writers like us, should speak up on the recent developments in the country. The Akademi is an independent body of writers and should be independent of the government,” Mr. Balasubramanya said.
N. Gopi, member of the general council, said the Akademi should spell out its position. Tanaji Halarnakar from Goa said he was surprised at the silence of the Akademi.
Short story writer P.K. Parakkadavu and literary critic K.S. Ravikumar too have resigned from the general council.