New Delhi, October 13
Another Kannada writer announced he would return his Sahitya Akademi Award, joining the protest against growing communal intolerance and attacks on free speech. In a related development, Booker Prize winning author Salman Rushdie questioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi's "silence" on the issue while coming out strongly against "thuggish violence" and dismissing criticism by "Modi Toadies", saying he supported no political party.
Kannada writer Rahamat Tarikeri said he had returned his award to protest the killings of scholar MM Kalburgi and rationalists Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare.
His announcement comes within hours of Punjabi writer Dalip Kaur Tiwana’s declaration that she would return his Padam Shri award.A novelist and short-story writer, Tiwana received the Padma Shri for Literature and Education in 2004.
Tarikeri takes the number of writers returning their Sahita Akademi awards to 22. Nayantara Sahgal, the niece of former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, was the first to return hers.
Two writers — Shashi Deshpande and Dalit poet Aravind Malagatti — resigned from their positions in the Akademi’s general council while three others — poet K Satchidanandan, short-story writer PK Parakkadvu and writer PK Ravikumar — have given up their membership to the institution to protest its silence over rationalist scholar MM Kalburgi’s murder.
Kalburgi, 77, was shot dead by two men at his house in Dharwad, northern Karnataka — often considered the state's cultural capital — on August 30. Kalburgi’s murder came six months after progressive thinker, left-wing politician and author Govind Pansare died of gunshot wounds in Mumbai. The killings were condemned as attack on free speech.
In August 2013, Narendra Dabholkar, rationalist author from Maharashtra, was shot dead in Pune when he was out for a morning walk. Pansare’s murder, who was also similarly killed, led police to believe there was a link between the killings.
Recently, 50 year-old Mohammed Akhlaq was beaten to death in Bishada village in Uttar Pradesh’s Dadri after romours that he had beef spread through the village. The incident caused outrage and evoked widespread condemnation.
Meanwhile, Man Booker Prize-winning author Salman Rushdie rubbished criticism for supporting authors protesting the "rising intolerance" in the country.
The author was flooded with a barrage of hate messages after he tweeted his support to writers returning their Sahitya Akademi awards to protest the institution’s silence over killings of writer MM Kalburgi and rationalists Narendra Dabolkar and Govind Pansare.
The 68-year-old author responded in another tweet: "Here come the Modi Toadies. FYI (for your information), Toadies: I support no Indian political party and oppose all attacks on free speech. Liberty is my only party."
Toady is a term referred to person who praises and helps powerful people in order to get their approval.
His tweets came after Shiv Sena activists in Mumbai blackened the face of ORF chief Sudheendra Kulkarni after the latter refused to cancel a function to launch Pakistan foreign minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri’s book, ‘Neither a hawk nor a dove’, prompting strong condemnation from political parties.
"I think what's crept into Indian life now is a degree of thuggish violence which is new," Rushdie told a news channel.
The Mumbai-born author was forced to pull out from the Jaipur Literature Festival citing death threats after some authors used the platform to read out portions from his 1989 novel, ‘The Satanic Verses’ in 2012. Inran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a death fatwa against Rushdie in 1989 for the book. The death fatwa was renewed in 2014.
Meanwhile, author Chetan Bhagat took to twitter to term the authors protest “posturing and politics”.
"Accepting an award and then returning it demeans the award and the jury. It's posturing. It's politics," Bhagat wrote.
In another tweet, he questioned the decision of the authors, saying if someone did not like the government in power would they return their passports or their government college degrees? "Why just an award?" he asked.
Bhagat had earned the ire of social media for his tweets "Ok so am I also supposed to return my Sahitya Academy award?
Oh wait. Haven't got it yet."
Attempting to be humorous he said” "Is there an award return office? And do they then zap you ‘Men in Black’ style so you forget you ever got an award."
‘Men in Black’ was a sci-fiction film where the alien fighting protagonists used devices to erase memories of the public.
The popular author also said: "Politicians not protesting Dadri play to their vote bank. But those protesting it are also playing to theirs. Nothing more. Nothing less." — PTI
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