Writer's block

A compilation of eminent apolitical personalities who have returned their awards in protest.

November 05, 2015 03:18 pm | Updated December 04, 2021 11:33 pm IST

Over the last few months several non-political personalities, especially writers and intellectuals, publicly expressed their concerns over the rising 'intolerance' in the country.

They were reacting to several sporadic events such as communal violence, attack on individuals who dared to speak against fundamentalism, provocative remarks by ministers, ruling party leaders, and moral policing by right-wing organisations.

Two specific incidents broke the silence of intellectuals: >murder of rationalist writer M.M. Kalburgi and >lynching of Muslim man by a Hindu mob on rumours that he was storing beef at his residence in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh.

Eminent writer Nayantara Sahgal returned the prestigious Sahitya Akademi Award in protest against what she called the “vanishing space” for diversity.

Nayantara Sahgal

English Writer

" The lynching of the poor man was the last straw. "

WHY? The niece of the former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru — who was vocal in criticising her cousin Indira Gandhi during the Emergency — returned her Sahitya Akademi award and, later, the award money as a mark of protest against the Prime Minister's 'silence on the reign of terror.'

Several writers joined in with Ms. Sahgal to return their awards. Four litterateurs — K Satchidanandan, Shashi Deshpande, P.K. Parakkadvu and Aravind Malagatti stepped down from their Sahitya Akademi posts.

K. Satchidanandan

Malayalam poet

" The Akademi has failed in its duty to stand with the writers and to uphold freedom of expression guaranteed by the Constitution. "

WHY? The veteran poet had earlier written to Sahitya Akademi president to adopt a resolution condemning the killing of Kannada writer M.M. Kalburgi. But the body remained silent. So, he wrote a letter to the Akademi communicating his decision to quit the positions in Akademi committees.

>Why we returned Sahitya Akademi awards

Sahitya Akademi award winner poet ASHOK VAJPEYI explains why he returned his award.

>People are being killed for not agreeing with the 'ruling ideology'

Excerpts of a telephonic interview with noted writer NAYANTARA SAHGAL

In fact, Hindi writer Uday Prakash was the first one to >return his award. Thirty six writers have returned their Sahitya Akademi Awards so far.

List of writers who returned their Sahitya Akademi Awards
Uday Prakash Hindi writer Nayantara Sahgal English writer
Ashok Vajpeyi Hindi poet Sarah Joseph Malayalam femnist writer
Ghulam Nabi Khayal Kashmiri writer Rahman Abbas Urdu writer
Waryam Sandhu Punjabi writer Gurbachan Singh Bhullar Punjabi writer
Ajmer Singh Aulakh Punjabi writer Atamjit Singh Punjabi writer
GN Ranganatha Rao Kannada translator Mangalesh Dabral Hindi writer
Rajesh Joshi Hindi writer Ganesh Devy Gujarati writer
DN Srinath Kannada translator Kum Vee a.k.a. Kumbar Veerabhadrappa Kannada writer
Rahmat Tarikere Kannada writer Baldev Singh Sadaknama Punjabi writer
Jaswinder Punjabi poet Darshan Battar Punjabi poet
Surjit Patar Punjabi poet Chaman Lal Punjabi translator
Homen Borgohain Assamese journalist Mandakranta Sen Bengali poet
Keki N Daruwalla English poet Nand Bhardwaj Hindi writer
Munawar Rana Urdu writer Kashi Nath Singh Hindi writer
Krishna Sobti Hindi writer Mohan Bhandari Punjabi writer
Marghoob Banihali Kashmiri writer Ambika Dutt Hindi writer
Kashinath Singh Hindi writer Nirupama Borghain Assamese writer
K. Katyayani Vidhmahe Telugu writer Bhoopal Reddy Telugu writer

Kum. Veerabhadrappa

Kannada writer

" In the changed political situation, where State and Centre are mute spectators for all the atrocities by fundamentalist forces, writers, rationalists and intellectuals are living under fear. "

DID YOU KNOW? After Regional Centre of the Akademi in Bengaluru refused to accept his citation and award money, Mr. Veerabhadrappa left it on the table of the Secretary Mahabaleshwara Bhat's table and left.

More writers join the protest

Several writers have returned the awards they received from the State Sahitya Akademi. The list includes:

Urdu novelist Rahman Abbas>returned the Maharashtra State Urdu Sahitya Academy Award in protest against the ‘growing intolerance of Hindu right-wing groups against minorities.’

Six writers, who were conferred Kannada Sahitya Parishat’s BMTC Aralu Sahitya award — the same year when Kalburgi was conferred the Nrupatunga award — returned them. >Full article

Senior poet Ameeroddin Amir, and young story writer Muhamad Yousuf Raheem Bidri, >returned their Karnataka Urdu Academy awards.

By returning her Sangeet Natak Akademi award, theatre artiste Maya Krishna Rao became the first performance artiste to join a string of writers handing over their literary awards.

Maya Krishna Rao

Theatre artiste

" The government is yet to empathise and reassure the country that the basic values of independent thinking and way of life of the people will be safeguarded at any cost. "

DID YOU KNOW? Ms. Rao founded a street theatre group, Theatre Union, and raised issues like dowry, and rape law in her works. Her recent play Walk , in response to the December 16 bus gang-rape, has been performed several times in schools, colleges, street, living rooms, shopping malls, NGOs and rallies.

Artists extend support writers

Noted artists, including the likes of Anjolie Ela Menon and Subodh Gupta come out in support of eminent writers who have relinquished their state awards. Over 400 artists have so far >signed a statement pledging solidarity with the writers and termed the current situation “alarming”.

Anjolie Ela Menon

Contemporary artist

" The government is now trying to take its political views to prestigious institutes by appointing heads who suited their ideology. "

WHY? In a statement issued by eminent artists, Ms. Menon points out the taking over by the government of nine cultural institutions so far, including replacement of the heads of all nine institutions such as National Museum, IGNCA, FTII and Nehru Memorial Library.

Historians and academics object to doctoring history 'to enforce a particular ideology'

Fifty-three historians and academics under the collective of SAHMAT >signed statement strongly condemning incidents from the Dadri lynching to the >ink attack on Jammu and Kashmir MLA Engineer Rashid .

Irfan Habib


" There is not much difference between Islamic State and the RSS as far as intellect goes. "

WHY? Mr. Habib was speaking at an event on the birth anniversary of slain rationalist Narendra Dabholkar. Eminent personalities called upon President Pranab Mukherjee to advise the government to ensure the freedom of life, faith and expression.

Over 100 historians and social scientists of India at academic institutions overseaswrote an >open letter to express their solidarity with the statement of their colleagues in India.

Scientists too speak up

Eminent scientist P.M. Bhargava>returned his Padma Bhushan , the first person in recent times to return a Padma award. Mr. Bhargava came down heavily on the government's decision to cut budgetary support to the CSIR, the premier R&D organisation. He also objected to the presence of the RSS at a function hosted by the CSIR.

P. M. Bhargava

Scientist, Founder-Director of Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB)

" As a scientist that is all I can do. "

WHY? Mr. Bhargava and over 100 scientists said the government not only failed its duty of encouraging scientific temper in the society, but was doing the opposite by encouraging superstition and making 'absurd claims' like India in ancient times had built a huge aircraft with inter-planetary movements.

Over 100 scientists from India and abroad released a statement online on the current state of affairs in the country “on the issues of reason, tolerance and scientific temper”. The statement begins with a deep concern at the “climate of intolerance, and the ways in which science and reason are being eroded in the country”. It was put at >www.submissiononline.in .

Also read: >More than 100 scientists speak out against bigotry

Fimmakers return awards

Ten filmmakers, >in a letter addressed to President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, urged them to protect the freedom of expression of each citizen.

They were expressing solidarity with the students of FTII, who were >on a strike seeking the removal of what they call incompetent Gajendra Chauhan as the Chairman of the institution and also the removal of four members of the FTII society, who had links with the RSS.

After 139-day strike, >the students returned to their classes but vowed to continue their protest by other means. Immediately, ten fimmakers, some of them alumni of FTII, announced their decision to return their National awards.

Also read: >List of persons who returned their National Awards

Anand Patwardhan

Documentary filmmaker

" I am more afraid today than I was during the emergency because now there are roving gangs looking to do violence against anyone who speaks out. "

WHY? FTII students staged a 139-day strike following the appointment of Gajendra Chouhan as the institute's chirperson. The appointment surprised many in the film fraternity since he was virtual unknowns in the film fraternity.

A couple of days later fimmaker Kundan Shah said that he would >return his Indira Gandhi Award for Best First Film.

Earlier, two FTII alumni Pratik Vatsa and Vikrant Pawar returned their awards.

Top News Today


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.